Drone News

We first reported on Flyability’s Elios drone last July, and thought that it's a brilliantly designed search and rescue or inspection drone that could reach areas too hazardous for people to traverse themselves. According to DroneLife, Czech beer manufacturer Pilsener Urquell just realized the potential of utilizing this dextrous, nimble unmanned aerial vehicle in the brewery’s own bottling plants. 

The Elios is a durable drone encased in an ultra-light carbon fiber net, which allows it to collide with its surroundings without incurring any damage. That makes it a considerable solution for those in need of reaching difficult spaces that might otherwise pose serious risks. For Pilsner Urquell’s bottling plant, regulations of which require the ceiling to be inspected once per decade, the Elios quickly became the answer to maintain productivity without shutting the factory down completely.

Pilsner Urquell’s bottling plant covers nearly seven and a half acres, and produces 60,000 bottles of beer every hour. Standard operating procedure would have production shut down for more than a month, while five workers climb to the ceiling, visually inspect it, and prepare the requisite scaffolding and safety provisions. Clearly, using a collision-resistant drone that can be operated while work continues as usual is a far safer and more financially viable alternative to the usual process. As it turns out, camera-drones are increasingly practical when it comes to inspecting infrastructure.

The rather ingenious idea wasn’t discovered in-house, but rather from drone service provider Drony SITMP’s Ondrej Bouček, who met Pilsner Urquell’s inspector on another assignment. “The drone was exactly the solution for their situation,” said Bouček. “Pilsner Urquell were really pleased with the results of the flights. Elios provided benefits in safety, downtime, and mainly cost…They are also proud to be the first in the Czech Republic to use this method for roof inspections.”

During the aerial inspection, one pilot operated the drone and another served as safety observer. The inspector then simply guided the pilots to specific areas in the building, in order to gather the required data to produce a thorough report on the integrity of the building’s ceiling. To give you some sense of efficiency here, the entire procedure took a mere 12 days, with four to five hours of daily aerial inspection. That’s quite the contrast from the conventional, month-long process still serving as the standard in these situations. According to Bouček, that could all change moving forward. “This is the plan going forward,” he said. “We’ll be doing more and more of these.”


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Introducing the newest Hollywood star about to shock audiences everywhere: The DJI Zenmuse X5S camera aboard the Inspire 2 drone in a film called The Ascension of Ava Delaine. Oh, and also the lead actress, director, and producer of this single-take, all mobile device-shot film, complete with multiple wardrobe changes: Tonya Kay.

I had the pleasure of chatting with this seasoned performer and new director (Tonya, not the drone). As I imagine a lot of SolidSmack readers are, I was mostly unaware of how the cinema world works, but I was fascinated by Ms. Kay’s aggressive adoption of drone tech. Cinematographer and Drone Operator Andria Chamberlin was also kind enough to answer some of the more technical questions.

How It All Started

Tonya and her team decided to take on the AT&T Shape Create-A-Thon challenge in the Mobile Film category. This year, some of the mobile category rules they had to meet were: films had to be shot on smartphone, tablet or drone and it could be no more than 5 minutes long. Other constraints included having less than 4 weeks between “green light and delivery”. . . which my engineering mind takes to mean between “go time and deadline”.

Something her team DID NOT have to do (but did anyway): shoot that ~5 minutes of mobile device footage in a single take. So that means no stopping the camera while Tonya changed her wardrobe 4 times. Nudity was hidden from the camera’s view, but Tonya tells me her amazing crew braved, “way more of my nekkid (sic) body than they signed up for that day.” She also performed and changed costumes as she ran up multiple floors of a building! On each floor was a different scene representing a different decade of the character’s life.

Some Questions with Tonya Kay

ERIN: “How many were on your crew (besides the drone)?”

TONYA KAY:  “19 altogether, including but not limited to writer/co-producer Shaula Evans, cinematographer/drone operator Andria Chamberlin, sound designer/foley artist Jamie Billings, co-executive producer Dennis Ho, post-production at Digital Jungle Post and of course crazy-eyed me doing lots of things you can read in the credits.”

ERIN: “Why drone?  What cinematic advantages does filming with a drone bring? (Pretend like we know nothing about cinematography . . . because most of us don’t.)”

TONYA KAY:  “I chose to make an all-drone narrative film because I’ve never seen it done and I’m an artistic daredevil.  Screw easy, boring and safe – in my art, it’s okay if it hurts, so long as it’s real.

“Also, as my directorial debut, I was realistic about a 5-minute short not garnering much attention unless it was so risky, so renegade, so ridiculously bold that folk would watch just to see how we did it. Heck, high-level collaborators came on board for the exact same reason.

“Why have I never seen an all-drone, single-take narrative film?  Because it’s difficult af! Had we had a substantially larger budget, we might have taken three days on location to rehearse and capture the five minutes of sunset you’ll see in the film, but that’s nearly all I would have changed. It was suggested that we could have used a ($300,000/day) crane to do this, but I disagree: a crane could not have traveled over the rooftop before taking a 180-degree rotation like we did. A drone was the only equipment that could have accomplished this camera movement and sometimes it takes limited resources to recognize that.”

The Super Technical Q’s With Andria Chamberlin

ERIN: “How was the drone controlled? Were locations and times programmed in before shooting or was it maneuvered in real time by remote control?”

ANDRIA CHAMBERLIN: “We had two drone operators for the Inspire 2 using the X5 camera.  One controller managed the drone’s flight path and the other operated the camera’s gimbal.  The shot started out handheld, so one operator held the drone while the other pulled focus and controlled the gimbal. The shot continued through the launch at which point the person doing the handheld operation switched to control the gimbal, while the other controlled the drone’s flight path.  The drone’s flight path was pre-programmed prior to the shoot off-site on an app called AutoPilot using actual GPS coordinates of the location. We rehearsed the drone’s path in a field up by Paramount Ranch a few days prior to the actual shoot date. When we got to location, the alley and the location being in Downtown LA posed a problem accessing satellites – so although we had the whole operation pre-programmed, the drone couldn’t access enough satellites and we had to operate manually.”

ERIN: “What kind of control do you have on the camera settings during filming? Did you control those in real time or was it all automatic or was one focus and aperture setting and etc. OK for the whole film?”

ANDRIA CHAMBERLIN: “We had complete control of all camera settings throughout the 5-minute continuous shot. We had to rack focus throughout as the drone and the actor moved throughout the windows and each floor. We were shooting on a 25mm lens on the X5 which is a 2x crop factor, and at times all the way open at f2 as the sun started to go down, so pulling focus was essential.  We even racked aperture at points to account for drastic changes in brightness of direct sun, shadow, interior windows, and eventually the rooftop.”

ERIN: “You mentioned the geolocation software not working the day of filming because one of the satellites was not in the line of sight. What were some other technical limitations you ran into?”

ANDRIA CHAMBERLIN:  “We actually only had 5 satellites accessing the drone on the day of the shoot – we needed about 15 for the drone to work properly in our pre-programmed flight path. This was because we were in a tight alley surrounded by tall buildings in downtown.

“Other technical limitations probably would be the drone itself.  The drone on a 25mm lens trying to hold a closeup mid-air is tough, especially when you add wind, an alley into the equation, and a 5-minute single-take altogether where everything needs to be spot on or the whole take doesn’t work. Drones are brilliant for wides and always look very steady, but as you start to film subjects closer and closer it becomes more challenging to hold a shot in place.

“We really wanted to the drone to start off handheld and then seamlessly launch from our hands – but the Inspire 2 has incredibly dangerous blades that could seriously injure someone.  We would’ve needed to purchase specially made handles for the drone, and other protective gear for our bodies but we had limited time due to our deadlines and couldn’t get the handles in time. So what we did instead, was built a launch platform the same height as where the camera needed to be during the handheld portion, and pulled back to a wide where we set the camera seamlessly down on the platform. We launched from the platform without cutting. Some launches were smoother than others . . .

“We also were using the X5 camera which has its own picture limitations. The limited dynamic range of 9 stops on the camera made it tough to go from shadow to interior windows to direct sunlight all in one shot. As such, some highlights are more blown out than say an Alexa’s 14 stops would have.”

ERIN: “If you could wish a feature or gizmo into existence, what would make your job of filming with a drone easier? (This will be read by a bunch of hardware enginerds — maybe they can make it happen!)”

ANDRIA CHAMBERLIN:  “For this particular shoot, a satellite mesh network or ground stations to fill in the gaps in the satellite network caused by the cityscapes would’ve allowed us to use our pre-programed flight path without problems. Better wireless protocols would’ve helped that as well. If the drone didn’t have those problems that day, we basically could’ve sat back and just pulled focus and aperture and let the drone fly the path we had programmed for it automatically.

“Hand launching made easier for the Inspire 2 would’ve helped this shot as well. If ever a shot needs to start handheld on a person’s feet, follow them in a close-up through some action, and then end up on a rooftop (as ours did), the ability to hand launch safely and with ease, would’ve been amazing!”

More Questions for Tonya:

ERIN: “Tell me more about those crazy costume changes! How many did you do? How much did your athleticism factor into you pulling that off? How did you hide it from the camera?”

TONYA KAY: “What you see from the drone front is the movie. What was happening behind those walls was a whirlwind of rambunctious nudity and focused determination. It’s a good thing I was a professional dancer for 26 years before I acted in this shoot, because we treated the staging of The Ascension of Ava Delaine more like choreography between the drone and lead actress. I literally changed clothes while running between floors of the building to meet our drone on a new floor in a new decade of time, in new wardrobe with a new set of emotions.  “The drone, meanwhile, was navigating its own choreography on the outside of the building between our meetups, as well.

“I couldn’t have done it without the crew, braving way more of my nekkid body than they signed up for that day. I had one person on each floor assisting the wardrobe changes. I had another crew member on each floor on walkie communicating with the camera department things like, ‘Eyes on Tonya floor 2. She’s out of her head piece. Pulling up gown. Exiting onto balcony in 3 .. 2 . . .’ Then, get this — I’m the director, too, right? Then I’d hit my mark, yell ‘action’ for the camera to find me and my 1st AD (Assistant Director), SaraAnne Fahey, would yell another ‘action’ to me when she saw I was in frame. It was more like theatre with the energy of real-time everything.

“I decided early on to scrap all shoe changes for time, so you will only see me with footwear in the very first vignette. I under-dressed everything I could. So the lingerie, for example, in the 4th vignette, was worn under 3 vignettes prior.  I wore hats or headpieces to account for the lack of hair style change-time. When I finally got to the rooftop, my chest was heaving so hard, I had to absolutely meditate myself clam in the two seconds it took for the camera to find me.

“As an actress, I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve seen continuous-shot films, but the actors weren’t doing real-time quick changes or ascending entire buildings through five decades in five min. It was insane and ridiculously fun.”

ERIN: “If you could explain to me in general more about how the filming worked, that would be great. I was a bit confused with you saying it was a 5-minute single-take but then you also had to do a segment shot on-location at the WB studios.”

TONYA KAY:  “There’s the movie you pitch, then there’s the requests studios/network place on your movie. In this case, it was the AT&T SHAPE competition which made the request.  This is just like the real-world film/tv-making process, by the way. A producer, writer, director, actress – every artist can expect their initial concept to change and change again every step of the way.  If you want your work to be seen by more than your pets, you gotta be able to collaborate. I’ve always said: a true artist isn’t someone who has brilliant creative ideas, it’s someone who has those ideas, takes the notes, includes revisions, even makes mistakes and then still creates brilliance incorporating all the twists and turns. I find it absolutely thrilling.

“Yes, the competition requested (required) we use a shot from Warner Bros, which threw us for a loop when they also unleashed the news that Warner Bros wouldn’t be allowing drones.  Our green lit pitch was for an all-drone, single-take film and my ego felt a battle!  Instead of going berserk, I decided this was a lesson more about who I am going to be as a filmmaker and less about the project itself. As the director, am I going to cry about the integrity of my film or am I going to craft a way to stay true to the film’s original concept while showing AT&T and Warner Bros that I play well with others? I genuinely crave teamwork and incorporating this request actually challenged me to be even more creative with a solution AND taught me how to keep cool and treat people well even when under considerable artistic and deadline pressure. A successful filmmaker = solutions.

“You’ll see I chose to include a separate shot filmed at Warner Bros right at the top of the film for the production company’s title card. It actually sits in nicely, incorporates the competition’s request and is a creative way to honor the production company, Danger Arts.

“And if I want, I can remove the requested clip for future cuts. You know what I’m saying.”

More Items on the Technical Wish List

Tonya told me there were 2 other camera/drone features from a post-production view that would have made making this film easier.

One was not having compression automatically placed on the video files. While the film was shot in 5k, and while the format appeared to be RAW, Tonya tells me there was still noticeable compression applied. In editing, her team didn’t have full access to colorizing options. She says she’s not unhappy; they still were able to perform a lot of colorizing effects. This aspect was vital to the artistic storytelling of the project as the team colorized the different vignettes representing different decades to reflect the colors and tones we associate with those time periods. They would have liked to do even more, though!

The other thing on Tonya’s wish list was even more image stabilization. While the way these camera-drone combos are built is fantastic for far-away scenery views, it’s not as great for close-ups. I’m told that means any filming done 10 feet away or closer. Because this film was entirely shot in that close-up range, and also shot outside in the wind, adjustments made to the drone’s positioning are much more noticeable.

If you happen to be working on developing hardware for film production that pushes the technical envelope, and you’d like to have it tested out with this production company — Danger Arts, Tonya will be happy to chat with you. To get general feedback or even to get a sample film produced with your stuff, you can talk ideas with Tonya Kay through the contact page on her website.

When Can We See the Film?

The crew will be submitting The Ascension of Ava Delaine to every upcoming film festival they possibly can! Keep watch on SolidSmack for updates. Once those are over, the film will be available online to view. In the next few weeks, a trailer is expected to be available on the film’s website:  The Ascension of Ava Delaine


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Ever since property searches moved online, standing out from other listings has been extremely difficult for real estate agents. That’s where new technology like drone real estate photography comes in.

According to the recent statistics about real estate drone photography, over 70 per cent of homeowners are inclined to use a realtor that provides drone photography services.

And who wouldn’t? Drones give an aerial view of the property being listed including the area around it while providing a detailed view from every angle. This strongly influences buyers who base their decisions primarily on how the listing looks online.

So whether you are a homeowner looking to sell or a real estate agent looking to grow your business, learning some crucial aerial real estate drone photography skills is essential.

And that’s why we have prepared a comprehensive drone real estate photography guide to help you learn this highly marketable skill.

Show Off Your Property From Every Angle

Normal listing photographs may not always help buyers visualize exactly what the property looks like. And that’s understandable since knowing how big the property is and how everything looks together is difficult with regular photos.

For instance, if you have got a huge garden in front of the house you want to sell, separate photos of your home and the garden might not translate the scale of your property to potential buyers. An aerial view of the entire property can make it look more appealing and won’t require that your buyers put in extra effort visualizing the space.

Drone Shots Can Make Your Pitch Shine

As a real estate agent, getting listings is not always a piece of cake. With more and more competitors popping up, getting sellers to list with you can be difficult. However, showing up to a listing presentation with a drone shot of the neighborhood will most definitely impress your prospective clients.

How far is the closest coffee shop?

Or other hangouts and amenities? Since a drone shot is the most effective way of showing the whole neighborhood, they can help people get an idea of how far the property is from nearby hot spots. These are questions that any home buyer would have, and if they can clearly see what the distance is, they can make an informed decision. Grainy Google satellite views or street views don’t even come close to giving people this important piece of information.

What to Look Out for When Picking Drone Real Estate Photography Services

To fully take advantage of the benefits, it is important that as a homeowner or an agent, you pick the right drone real estate photography service. Here’s how you can go about making the correct choice:


There is no standard rate charged by real estate marketers for their drone photography services. Drone operators usually charge over $200 for their services, and that can go up to $1,000 depending on the quality of their work and the post-production services they provide.

Marketing Integration

Real estate drone photography is more than just taking aerial photos. When done right, it can truly elevate your real estate marketing strategy and improve the chances of buyers finding your property appealing.

That’s why you should choose drone operators that have provided real estate photography services before. Review their portfolio. Experienced drone photographers usually have a website or blog showcasing their body of work.

If your drone operator can create high-quality interior photos and videos too, then you have the perfect one-stop-shop for all your marketing needs.

Is It Worth the Investment?

The housing market is exceedingly competitive. To get homeowners to sell through your agency, you need eye-popping images and video showcasing the whole property—both interior and exterior views.

A property sold is money made. Drone real estate photography will increase your chances of selling the house in the shortest amount of time. That’s definitely worth the investment, as long as the drone shots are high quality and properly executed.


How to Get into Drone Real Estate Photography?

If you are just starting out with providing aerial real estate photography services or just want to try your hand at it yourself, you are going to need reliable drone equipment. If you are a beginner, it may not be a good idea spending a ton of money on drones, as they can be quite expensive. So here’s a few things you need to bear in mind when picking out drone photography equipment.

DJI Spark

If you are just now dipping your toes in aerial real estate photography, DJI Spark is a good enough piece of equipment to get started with. It takes photos at 12 megapixels and records videos at 1080p at 30 frames per second. The battery lasts 16 minutes per charge, which is not a great battery life, but at $700, the drone does come cheaper than other models.

The video quality isn’t excellent, but if you are looking to take quality drone photos, DJI Spark will do that for you except when it’s really windy. Since it is very lightweight, the DJI Spark can be difficult to get a decent side-to-side shot. It is good practice equipment, but once you understand the basics of aerial real estate photography, you might want to move on to a better drone.

DJI Phantom 4

DJI Phantom 4 is well suited to the drone photography needs of beginners and professionals alike. The drone is simple to use and takes 20 megapixels photos and records 4K videos at 60 frames per second.

It doesn’t have the same problems with stability as DJI Spark since it has a 3 Axis Gimbal to help stabilize the camera. You can download the DJI GO 4 app on your smartphone, and with that, you can control the drone and customize the camera settings—ISO, aperture, shutter.

At $1000, it’s pricier than DJI Spark, but with its ease of use for aerial real estate photography or just regular drone usage, it comes highly recommended by experts.

DJI Inspire 1

DJI Inspire 1 comes with a slightly hefty price tag of $1500 and a myriad of features for drone photography and videography. It has a high-resolution 4K camera and takes 1080p videos.

This model is best suited for professional photographers.

Aerial Real Estate Photography Tips:

With drones moving on from being a novelty tool in real estate marketing to becoming a regular feature, you’ll want to learn the basics quickly.

You need to familiarize yourself with the equipment and the location where you need to shoot. Plan your shoot beforehand, research the location and the vantage points. Find selling points in the neighborhood such as swimming pools, parks, garden, schools, etc.

Also, remember that your photos should not be a straight down view. Use angles to accentuate attractive features and the best bits of the house.

Final Thoughts:

Hopefully, these tips and drone recommendations will help you strengthen your real estate drone photography game. Just remember to check with local laws to see what areas you can fly a drone in.

Keep honing your skills even after you set up a service and strengthen relationships with your clients through the quality of your service. The majority of the clients you get are from referrals so make client satisfaction a priority.     



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If you are technically inclined and looking to start a new business -- or have an existing business that could benefit from new technology -- why not take advantage of one of the latest trends.

Becoming a drone expert could take your career to new heights.

If you want to use your drone for something more rewarding -- consider becoming a search and rescue drone operator. Drones can fly at night -- and reach areas where helicopters can't travel. The technology is quickly becoming an indispensable tool for first responders and search and rescue organizations. You can rent out your fully equipped drone for the job -- or become an operator yourself.

Surveillance is another opportunity for drones. Entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the trend can offer protection from intruders, fire and water leaks.

If the drone is activated, it can take a live feed and send it to a smartphone -- as well as notifying authorities.

If you own farmland -- or a winery -- use a drone to survey your crops. You can equip your drone with sensors to collect data on things like soil hydration, and checking for infestations. Drones make it easier to fly above your land -- you can get hourly updates if needed.

Taking pictures of landscapes opens up another field you can cash in on -- cartographic surveys. A drone mapping business can offer cheaper and quicker data than survey teams on the ground. Get a jump start in a number of industries using drone services including construction, urban planning, flood monitoring, and archaeology.

Drones make it easier than ever now to capture aerial images. You can get an affordable drone with high-resolution cameras -- so you can snap high-quality pictures of things like: weddings, real estate, sporting events, wildlife and landscapes.

As with any new technology that may affect public safety or privacy, there are regulations.


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The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) has harnessed drone footage coupled with artificially-intelligent video analytics to conduct crucial vegetation surveys of remote areas that would otherwise be “prohibitively expensive”.

In a move that reflects the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles by government agencies, councils utilities and surveyors to glean data and imagery of assets more accurately affordably, OEH is using the technology to identify endangered and invasive plant species. 

An OEH spokesperson told iTnews that “scanning and surveying large areas of bushland in the hope of spotting a threatened species usually involves field trips or the chartering of a helicopter to access the area and capture images,” which is both costly and time intensive.

However a recent pilot program in partnership with Fujitsu’s Digital Owl project has already yielded success by identifying two endangered plant species in the state’s Upper Hunter region.

Drones were used to fly over and scan a mountainside with no road access where the summit can only be reached after by helicopter - or a full day's hiking.

A hyperspectral camera fitted to the drone was then linked to an AI engine to different identify species and generate highly accurate distribution maps.

OEH Ecosystems and Threatened Species team senior team leader Lucas Grenadier said it was “critical” for the OEH to understand the distribution of threatened species to effectively manage them.

He added the technology could also be used to better understand and manage “the levels of weed incursions and other threats”.

Weed monitoring and control is essential to effective environmental management because of the effects outbreaks can have on biodiversity, water management and agriculture.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton is a clear fan of getting a bird's eye view of conditions.

“It’s exciting to be using new drone technology with detailed layers of analytics behind them to get more accurate information including maps of otherwise inaccessible areas,” said Upton said.

Fujitsu said it would continue to refine the AI program used by training it with visual data collected from future drone flights at different altitudes.

The company said the program could also one day be used to identify threatened animal populations.

Similar trials have been already been successful in Queensland, with drones being used to kill weeds and AI to track invasive plants camouflaged against dense growth.


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Robotics researchers have succeeded in inducing self-organising flocking behaviour in drones.

Although demonstrated many times using computer models, the latest research – led by Gábor Vásárhelyi of the Hungarian Academy of Science – marks perhaps the first time drone-flocking has been achieved in the real world without the use of a central control system.

The achievement points the way to forward to using drone flocks in a range of applications, from search-and-rescue to mapping and defence.

Flocking behaviour is, of course, commonplace in the natural world, particularly among birds, fish and insects. Understanding its dynamics, however, continues to present a challenge, with different models being suggested.

Nevertheless, understood or not, it happens, often spectacularly. Large numbers of independent organisms are able to move collectively, maintaining direction and not smacking into obstacles or each other.

The same, until now, cannot be said for drones – or, at least, multiple drones that do not respond to a single controller.

One of the main reasons for this, explain Vásárhelyi and his colleagues, is that drone-flocking is primarily the pursuit of computer modellers. Theoretical frameworks for the design of distributed flocking algorithms are all well and good, but they fail to account for real-world conditions.

These, the researchers write, include “constrained motion and communication capabilities, delays, perturbations, or the presence of barriers”.

The absence of such factors from theoretical models limits their value. Barriers and obstacles are not merely isolated challenges, but things that have large and continuing effects on the collective behaviour and cooperation of the flock. Because of this, the scientists note, models that work gracefully on computer screens “tend to oscillate and destabilise quickly under real-life conditions when delays, uncertainties, and kinematic constraints are present”.

The researchers reference a number of apparent real-world examples of autonomous drone flocking behaviour, including events staged by the US military and the band Metallica, but suggest that each is in some way more apparent than real. The drones are all separately programmed to follow specific flight paths, for instance, or instructed to flock towards a specific target, thus limiting variables.

The general principles that govern flocking behaviour, whether in birds or drones, are well understood and uncontroversial. They arise from the interaction of thee simple rules: the need to not crash into a neighbour, the need to steer in the same direction as a neighbour, and the need to follow the average position of a neighbour.

So far, so elegant, but while each of a thousand flying starlings, for instance, is perfectly capable of flying around a tree, a dozen autonomous drones confronted by the same obstacle are likely to crash into it, collide with each other, or fly off in several different directions.

“Creating a large decentralised outdoor drone swarm with synchronised flocking behaviour using autonomous collision and object avoidance in a bounded area is as yet an unresolved task,” note Vásárhelyi and his team.

To a significant extent, however, the new work solves many of the issues.

To do so, the researchers began with modelling that included several extra variables intended to reflect unpredictable real-world problems. These included not only the presence of obstacles and boundaries encountered while moving at high velocities, but also the sudden failure of sensors and short-range communication equipment.

The model was subjected to a process known as evolutionary optimisation – running the program through many generations so that optimally fit features could be identified.

The proof, however, could only be in the real-world robo-pudding. To test their findings the researchers used 30 quadcopter drones and set them up in a physical environment full of obstacles. They programmed them to fly autonomously, set up some of the electronics to fail, and let them go.

Through several runs, the drone swarm flocked and flew without problems – especially, as it turned out, at high speeds.

“The model works in a noisy environment, with inaccurate sensors and short-range communication devices, and in the presence of substantial communication delay and with possible local communication outages,” the scientists report.

Vásárhelyi and colleagues conclude that their results need to be subjected to more sophisticated analysis, but already hold promise for improving drone performance in a variety of contexts.

The research is published in the journal Science Robotics.


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DJI has rolled out enhancements to its geofencing system, which uses GPS and other navigational satellite signals to automatically help prevent drones from flying near sensitive locations, such as airports, nuclear power plants and prisons.

Now, professional drone pilots who do have authorization to fly in sensitive locations can use a streamlined application process to receive unlocking codes within 30 minutes.

According to the company, this feature was carefully designed to help expand the beneficial uses of drones in sensitive areas that have been restricted in DJI’s geofencing system. While those areas will remain restricted to more casual drone pilots, DJI now staffs its global authorization team around the clock in order to process applications and provide unlocking codes quickly.

“DJI now processes most requests within 30 minutes, though requests involving unusual circumstances or requiring additional documentation may need additional time,” explains Michael Perry, managing director of North America at DJI. “By making it easier for authorized pilots to put drones to work in sensitive areas, DJI is once again showing why professional drone operators choose our aerial platforms for the most important tasks.”

Professional drone pilots can apply to unlock restricted zones at www.dji.com/flysafe/custom-unlock. The portal page allows pilots to enter information about their aircraft and controller, as well as authorization documents supplied by the controlling authorities in areas where they wish to fly. Enterprise users can also, for the first time, include multiple aircraft in a single unlocking request.

“DJI first implemented geofencing in 2013, and it is now established as an important tool to help our customers make thoughtful flight decisions while also addressing legitimate concerns about safety and security by helping prevent unauthorized flights in the most sensitive locations,” notes Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI.


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SkySpecs, the award-winning provider of robotics solutions for the wind energy industry – in collaboration with Ørsted, global leaders in developing and building offshore wind farms, today announce a successful automated inspection of the world’s largest offshore wind turbine at Burbo Bank Extension, in the Irish Sea.

“Providing consistent image quality across the largest turbines offshore is challenging and requires consistency from the drone,” David-Lee Jones, Ørsted’s Senior Technical Project Lead, said. “This was the purpose of our work with SkySpecs. We really wanted to validate that their technology could provide the type of precise and robust inspection capabilities that Ørsted expects.  We are pleased to announce that the inspection was a success.”

Ørsted’s mission is to lead the way in offshore wind innovation, and testing an automated inspection on an 8MW offshore turbine was an important step in gaining confidence that this technology has the potential to be rolled out on all larger sized wind turbines.

Ørsted is bringing that innovation to the U.S. as well, with projects under development in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. As the industry leader, the company is using its expertise to help build a mature, technologically advanced U.S. offshore wind industry – creating jobs and continuing to push the global industry forward.

The data that SkySpecs collected will be used to evaluate the condition of the 80-meter turbine blades as well. SkySpecs’ solution includes:

-Fully automated robotic inspections of wind turbine blades that take less than 15 minutes from start to finish;

-Automatic data upload to their software product, Horizon, that classifies images by damage type and severity;

-An advanced feature set in Horizon that includes repair planning workflows, analytics dashboards and insights that enable users to spot trends, project repair costs and determine ROI.

“We are pleased that we’ve helped Ørsted move ahead with their goals. As an organization, we are committed to applying robotic solutions to solve challenges faced by the renewable energy,” said SkySpecs’ CTO Tom Brady. “We’re helping owners craft their predictive maintenance strategies with a mountain of blade data and analytics tools that help them understand the health of their fleet.”

SkySpecs delivers automated onshore and offshore inspections to global customers.  Working with industry leaders, SkySpecs’ is realizing their mission to automate renewable energy O&M.


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The Australian Government will invest over A$1 million dollars into drone technology designed to complete environmental mapping works ahead of mining projects to ensure the safety of national miners and minimise the environmental damage of mining operations.

The money will be invested into Western Australian business Emapper as part of the Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) Growth Centre Ignited Project Fund. More than $7m will be spread across a total of eight projects, with the Emapper project receiving A$1.2m of government funds and a further A$1.2m from industry investment.

METS Growth Centre Ignited CEO Ric Gros said: “Opportunities for the sector to band together and innovate are vital to the growth of the sector. Facilitating such innovation is part of the mandate for METS Ignited, and the recipients of this round will be making invaluable contributions to the mining and METS sectors through their initiatives.”

The drones are designed to collect a range of data from potential mine sites and combine this with existing information on the regions, in order to determine the optimal areas to begin mining operations. This enables fast and efficient data analysis, as well as removes the need for human workers to spend long periods of time in adverse environments such as the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which is home to 27 species of venomous snakes.

Data is stored on a mobile app known as Scout provided by Emapper, which automatically checks data to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date.

The combination of governmental and industry funding means that more than $17m has been provided to recipients of the Ignited Project Fund; other projects to have received funding include software to improve the efficiency of mine truck fleets and battery-powered vehicles for underground mining.

The METS Growth Centre said in a statement: “Collectively, the projects will benefit the mining sector by optimising the value chain, increasing productivity for mining and mineral processing, supporting and enhancing environmental management, and improving operational safety.”


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According to a 2017 poll, thirty-one percent of farmers are considering the use of drone technology. The use of drones in agricultural communities is gaining ground due to several key benefits, including higher crop yields, time management efficiencies, and long-term planning abilities. Combined, these benefits allow farmers to increase productivity, while controlling costs and environmental risks.


Although businesses have been using drones for several decades, the use of drones in agriculture is a more recent development. As the amount of land available for farming decreases and the need for more food increases, the agricultural community is becoming more reliant on technology to produce enough supply to meet demand.

Some of the common uses of drones include spraying crops with fertilizer and pesticides, spotting irrigation problems, surveying and mapping fields, monitoring livestock, and planting.


Drones can help farmers save money on labor costs and collect more precise data. A few of the common uses for drones in agriculture can help reduce the amount of resources needed to grow crops, while also reducing the amount of environmental waste from the growing process. When farmers use drones to analyze fields, they can determine which parts of the field need more water, less water or more fertilizer.

The mapping and surveying capabilities of drones and drone-related software applications allow farmers to detect the health and life stages of various crops. Drones can also detect variances in crop health between specific areas of larger fields.

Drones help farmers with livestock

Thermal imaging cameras on certain drone models can alert farmers when livestock is injured or missing. Drones with thermal imaging can also determine whether certain areas of a field are experiencing pooling water or a lack of moisture from irrigation.

Smartphone Apps

Farmers can use smartphone apps to design flight plans for drones and schedule them to take flight from a remote location. An app can tell the drone to take pictures of crops, which can be useful if damage occurs.

The capabilities of the app allow farmers to specify what type of damage crops and fields sustained. With the app, it is easy to distinguish damage caused by hail, flooding, tornadoes or disease. Classifying separate incidents can help farmers keep track of trends and implement some degree of prevention planning.

Some drones have the ability to capture and store data obtained from fields where network or wireless connectivity is a challenge. The data can then be transferred from the drone to the smartphone app where there is solid network or wireless connectivity.

Although the initial cost of purchasing drones can be expensive, manufacturers and software developers are producing solutions specifically for the needs of the agricultural community to help farmers save costs over time.

Have you or anyone you know used drones? What for? Let us know about your experience!


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