In The News
DART WILDLIFE WITH A DRONE
Haevic, a well known drone manufacturer in Potchefstroom developed a brand new product: A dart gun has been mounted on a drone to dart wildlife from the sky, in a cost effective and speedy fashion.
See the article in the latest edition of Landbouweekblad
TRIOMF AGRI XCELLENCE AND HAEVIC FEATURED IN LANDBOUWEEKBLAD
UAV’s can give you a bird’s eye view of your crops and livestock – it takes the guessing out of agriculture. See the article in the latest edition of Landbouweekblad.
After seeing a TV broadcast on Dagbreek about the possibilities a drone can offer a farmer, this couple decided to contact Haevic for help. “We want to catch them red handed”, Mr Bennie van Jaarsveld* told the Haevic team. - TriomfSA
HAEVIC’S DRONE TO FIGHT CATTLE THIEVES IN NAMIBIA
Enough is enough! This was the decision a farmer and his wife made after some of their cattle were brutally maimed on their farm. Cutting the tendons of the cattle with a panga, these thieves immobilise some of the animals. The cattle become easy prey from where they cut out the choicest parts of the meat - often while the animal is still alive.
After seeing a TV broadcast on Dagbreek about the possibilities a drone can offer a farmer, this couple decided to contact Haevic for help. “We want to catch them red handed”, Mr Bennie van Jaarsveld* told the Haevic team.
The result was an eight arm multi-rotor drone with a camera fixed to its under carriage. While the drone is flying, the live video stream is conveyed to a ground station where the farmer can see in real time what is happening on his farm.
Mr van Jaarsveld can now use the drone to survey different areas of his farm. As these criminals tend to hide in the bushes near the water holes on his farm, he can now launch his drone from his vehicle to investigate the immediate vicinity around the different water points.
Strangely enough, monitoring the areas on a farm where criminal activities are rampant, does not necessarily lead to arrests. However, scouting your farm with an “eye-in-the-sky” drone repeatedly has proofed to minimise thieving activities, if not bringing it to an end all together.
Haevic is deservedly extremely proud to play an important role by means of the aerial detection of criminals.
Readers are most welcome to contact the Haevic team to discuss their needs for surveying areas by means of drone technology. Contact us and we gladly will return your inquiry!
*Fictitious name in order to hide the true identity of this farmer.
Livestock farmers in South Africa are dependent on the total farming area of their land in order to produce economically.
However the thread of invader bush diminish available farming areas on the larger part of livestock farmers.
Haevic was invited by the farming communities of Hoopstad and Prieska to enter into talks with them in order to investigate the possibility to adapt the Haevic 1 UAV into an herbicide spraying platform.
The advantage of such a drone will be many fold. Leaving aside the obvious curbing of costs for the farmer, the drone can fly completely automated, spraying only selective areas while taking video footage of the treated areas. By following up these areas with multispectral camera footage will assist the farmer to see where the herbicide was applied effectively. Areas not properly treated can then be focused upon to apply a second round of spraying.
Should the initial trial proofs to be successful, another frontier in the drone application field will be opened for Haevic. This could change the face of livestock farming to the advantage of all for generations to come.
HAEVIC PUSHING BOUNDARIES
With drones continuously causing jaws to drop at a gasp per second, Haevic hasn’t been left behind.
This time it’s in the form of developing a single-propelled drone in order to apply herbicides over vast areas, another feather in the already impressive cap belonging to these unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry within agricultural circles.
The Haevic 2 comes in light of its predecessor, the Haevic 1, a Fixed Wing Drone boasting superior payload and endurance capabilities which allows for the carrying of high end broad spectrum cameras over significant distances. The first of this extraordinary series has repeatedly proved its worth in South Africa and also made its continental debut in the Democratic Republic of the Congo earlier this month.
It was specifically built to fly a thousand hectares per flight while simultaneously recording video as well as infrared images. The Haevic 2 can also function independently from the operator making this plane one of the best flying platforms available on an international level.
This single rotor plane is also literally bigger and better.
Armed with the same endurance abilities but in this instance with the added prowess of being able to carry a hundred litres of herbicide, the Haevic 2 will be used to control invasive trees in South Africa as well as on Namibian farms. By spraying pesticides from the air on a selective basis, the farmer is able to not only control invasive trees more effectively, but also cut down on time and expenses.
Interest has already been forthcoming in the farming communities of Hoopstad and Prieska, both having requested Haevic to be present at their respective farmers’ days next month. The developers will be given a chance to discuss the requirements and specifications of these drone applications which thanks to their innovative problem-solving skills, have ticked all the right boxes among farmers.
Mechanical Engineer Werner Robbertse takes the Haevic 1 through its paces in anticipation of its launch in the DRC earlier this month. (Photo: supplied)
SA AVIATION AUTHORITIES MAKING STRIDES IN MIDST OF OBAMA OUTCRY
South Africa’s Aviation authorities are satisfied following the submission of comments as the deadline for RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) regulation draws near. And while progress is being made in SA, President Barack Obama has questioned the urgency of lawmakers following an incident at the White House earlier this week.
Kim Helfrich | 27 January 2015 | www.defenceweb.co.za
South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) is progressing toward an anticipated promulgation date of March 31 for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) regulations.
The deadline for submission of comments for consideration in compiling the regulations was January 5. This followed the publication of draft regulations in December.
"A good number of comments were received from industry including individuals, aviation consultants, manufacturers, suppliers as well as government and academic institutes," said Sandy Motale, Manager: Communications at SACAA.
"All inputs are currently being dealt with through the SACAA/industry rulemaking process," she said adding the March 31, 2015, implementation date was not an "enforcement" one but rather "an anticipated promulgation date to be followed by implementation.
The sub-committee tasked with reviewing comments and other inputs on RPAs includes industry stakeholders. Motale said no details of the draft regulations, which will in time be inserted into Part 101 of the South African Civil Aviation Regulations, will be made public "pending the outcome of the development process".
Hennie Kieser, director and chairman of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA), told defenceWeb the regulations will be finalised by the end of January and will then go to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters. He hopes the regulations will be law by the end of April, allowing people to go to the Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC) and SACAA to get their UAV/RPAS licenses.
Areas of concern for Kieser and CUAASA as far as the regulations are concerned are UAV/RPA pilot training and staffing.
He believes it will be difficult to train pilots for remotely piloted aircraft as there are currently no training schools where this type of flying training is on offer. Another problem area with pilot training is the hundreds of different UAVs/RPAs on the market. The draft regulations issued by SACAA make provision for three categories of pilot – RPL (A) aeroplane remote pilot licence; RPL (H) helicopter remote pilot licence and RPL (MR) multi-rotor remote pilot licence.
Kieser suggests pilots demonstrate their skills to inspectors. As there are currently no rated or certified UAV/RPAs instructors this could ease a chokehold on growth of this developing aviation sector.
He sees SACAA personnel as being insufficient to handle the "hundreds of applications that will flood in once the regulations become law". He maintains, that even with a dedicated RPAS team, the first licences will probably only be issued in the third quarter of this year.
The controversy surrounding drone regulations is being felt worldwide with American president Barack Obama the latest figure to voice his opinion on the need for greater urgency regarding regulations following a crash-landing of a small UAV near the White House earlier this week. (Source: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
SA AUTHORITIES ON THE BALL
Clarity is on the cards as the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) continue to tick boxes in marking their progress towards the approval of regulations in April which will allow for the issuing of long-awaited licenses.
Guy Martin | 15 January 2015 | www.defenceweb.co.za
South Africa is set to have its new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) regulations approved in April as the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) moves forward with efforts to regulate UAVs flying in South African airspace.
Draft regulations were published as a white paper in December and open to public comment until January 5. This week the SACAA will review comments and then make necessary changes. Hennie Kieser, director and chairman of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA), told defenceWeb that the regulations will be finalised by the end of January and will then be taken to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters. Kieser hopes the regulations will be law by the end of April, allowing people to go to the Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC) and SACAA to get their UAV licenses.
Kieser said that in theory it's possible for people to be flying with the first licenses in May but he is concerned that the first applications reaching the ASLC will encounter problems and it may only be towards the end of the year that the first pilots will legally be allowed to fly.
The SACAA set March 2015 as the deadline for new regulations to come into effect. At the moment there are no regulations governing the use of remotely piloted aircraft in South Africa, resulting in UAVs being prohibited from flying. As a result, Kieser estimates that commercial UAV operators have lost 50-60% of their revenue since the prohibition. The new regulations do not necessarily affect hobbyists.
The draft regulations would require aircraft to be licensed and registered and pilots/operators to undergo training to qualify them to fly the aircraft. Someone would only be able to fly a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) if they have an RPA Pilot License, an RPA Operator Certificate, a certificate of RPA registration and an RPA Letter of Approval.
Importantly, RPAs will be classified according to their mass, kinetic energy and type of operation (line of sight, beyond line of sight etc.), with ten classes ranging from Class 1A to Class 5 and with masses ranging from less than 1.5 kg to greater than 150 kg.
The draft regulations apply to class 1 and 2 RPAs (up to 120 kg). Private operations of RPAs will be conducted only in restricted visual line of sight with a Class 1A or 1B RPA (up to 7 kg). However, operating a UAV as a hobbyist falls under different regulations.
The draft regulations stipulate that an RPA can only be operated in South Africa with an RPA Letter of Approval (RLA) issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority, which is in effect a license valid for one year. In addition, RPAs would need to have a registration certificate, which would give them South African nationality.
Someone would only be able to pilot an RPA once in possession of a Remote Pilot License (RPL) in one of three categories: RPL (A) – Aeroplane Remote Pilot License; RPL (H) – Helicopter Remote Pilot License; and RPL (MR) – Multirotor Remote Pilot License. Several ratings are available including visual line of sight operations (VLOS), extended visual line of sight operations (E-VLOS) and beyond visual line of sight operations (B-VLOS).
The License would test things like air law, meteorology, navigation, aerodynamics, propulsion, flight control, batteries etc. Flight training can be a combination of simulator and real aircraft training and would cover things like aircraft inspection, systems checks, flight control/manoeuvres, takeoff, landing etc.
To apply for a license, an applicant would need to be older than 18, be medically fit, hold a restricted aeronautical radio license, be proficient in English, pass a theory exam, pass a skill test and where required, have completed flight training. Once granted, the RPL would only be valid for two years before a revalidation check would be needed for renewal.
RPA pilots would be required to have a functioning airband radio and, using the registration of the RPA as a call sign, make the required radio calls indicating the altitude, location and intended operation of the RPA at required intervals to ensure separation from other aircraft.
Once flying an RPA, a pilot would be required to have a logbook to record flight details and would not be allowed to have a blood alcohol level greater than .02 grams/100 ml or consume alcohol or drugs on duty.
Flying an RPA
For commercial, corporate and non-profit flight operations, an operator would be required to have an RPA Operator Certificate (ROC - valid for 12 months) or air services license, which can only be granted if the operator has a registered aircraft, an operations manual and an RLA. ROC holders would have background and criminal record checks conducted and would have to have third party insurance.
For private use, RPAs would only be flown in restricted visual line of sight (within 500 metres of the pilot) and over property the pilot owns or has permission to operate over.
With regard to operating an RPA, under the draft regulations an aircraft would only be operated in controlled airspace by a holder of an ROC or if the RPA is flown in visual meteorological conditions in an air traffic zone (ATZ) and controlled traffic region (CTR) below 400 feet. RPAs intended for operations within an ATZ or CTR would have to be fitted with a mode C or S transponder, altimeter, strobe light/s and navigation lights.
Various rules have been proposed regarding the safe flight of RPAs, such as prohibiting RPAs from carrying cargo, towing other aircraft, performing aerobatics, being flown in formation/swarm or being flown above or near a nuclear power plant, prison, police station, crime scene, court, national key point or strategic installation.
For beyond visual line of sight operations, an RPA would only be allowed to fly in visual meteorological conditions below 400 ft above ground level, unless otherwise approved. An RPA would only be flown at night in restricted visual line of sight operations.
RPAs would not be allowed to fly directly overhead people or closer than a distance of 50 m laterally to them unless the operator has special permission (or the person being overflown is the operator) or the people are being controlled by the operator. With regard to buildings, an RPA would only be flown further than 50 m laterally from a building (unless permission is obtained from the building's owner). RPAs would not be allowed to fly over public roads or closer than 50 metres to a public road unless care is taken that no damage will be caused if the RPA loses control.
Also under the proposed regulations, RPAs could only be sold to over-18s and if the buyer has been notified of SACAA requirements.
While South Africa is making headway regarding regulating UAVs, there are concerns over the implementation of rules and regulations. Kieser told defenceWeb that it will be very difficult to train UAV pilots as training schools do not exist and that this is also a problem because of the hundreds of different UAV models on the market. A better solution will be to get pilots to demonstrate their skills to inspectors. For example, if a pilot wanted to use a UAV for game counting, he would have to give a demonstration flight and if he wanted to use his aircraft for aerial photography he would have to perform another demonstration flight. However, Kieser said finding suitable inspectors was the biggest challenge.
A major concern with the implementation of the new regulations is staffing. The SACAA believes its staff can handle UAV applications, but Kieser believes a dedicated team will be necessary to process the hundreds of applications that will flood in as soon as the legislation becomes law. As a result, Kieser thinks the first licenses may only be granted in the third quarter of this year.
"The next year is going to be tough but the benefit will outweigh the risk," Kieser said. CUAASA will have monthly meetings with the SACAA to make any necessary changes to legislation as the system is rolled out. Kieser also hopes the SACAA will change its mind and allow UAVs to carry cargo – they are presently forbidden from doing so.
Commercial, hobbyist and park flyer pilots
It is important to note that the draft regulations only apply to operators who wish to fly their UAVs for commercial purposes. For anyone in South Africa with a UAV, there are three options to fly legally: one can apply for a license if pursuing commercial work (once the regulations are finalised); one can become a member of the South African Model Aircraft Association (SAMAA) if flying as a hobbyist; or one can fly as a 'park flyer'.
SAMAA members are only allowed to fly at SAMAA airfields while park flyers can fly without belonging to SAMAA or getting special permission. According to Pierre Laubscher, the operations manager of the Recreational Aviation Administration of South Africa (RAASA), park flyers can only fly aircraft weighing less than 1 kg and using an open frequency band for control. Park flyers must not fly their aircraft higher than 150 feet, within 5 nautical miles of an airfield and their aircraft must remain within visual line of sight.
Although never expected to be set in stone, South African authorities are a step closer to establishing some kind of consensus with regards to integration of UAVS into the national airspace system.
The value of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) has once more been reiterated, this time in the United States where experts underlined the benefits of having these drones present on farms which provide the ultimate in data collection and monitoring of plants and livestock, all at lowered costs.
Scott Larson | 13 January 2015 | The Star Phoenix
Few farms have unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, right now, but that is going to change dramatically in the near future, predicts Chad Colby.
"The value that you can get (from a UAV) is incredible," said Colby, who gave a presentation titled Drones in Agriculture, the Next Phase in Precision Farming as part of Crop Production Week, which is being held this week in Saskatoon.
"I doubt we are five per cent adoption (of the technology) right now. When you start talking about (UAVs), really the sky is the limit. There is so much here that can benefit agriculture. As the technology develops it's going to be more and more prevalent."
Some of the benefits of getting a bird's-eye view of the farm include: Being able to make timely decisions, data collection, monitoring of plant and livestock health, and cost savings due to greater precision inputs.
Colby said today's farmers are strapped for time and talent, and a UAV will save on both.
It will also be good for the environment because farmers can be more precise with their inputs while also raising yields.
"And you can put thermal cameras on (the UAV) and check livestock," Colby said. "There is all kinds of great technology."
And the price producers will have to fork over to get a well-equipped drone that is designed for the farm is less than $4,000.
"You can buy a great platform for under $4,000 and do some great work in the field," Colby said. "Growers get to see their crop like they have never seen it before and that is what we are talking about."
Technology is advancing rapidly with better sensors and lenses and easier data collection, which means it is easier to find and quantify the value of a UAV.
Plus, it is getting cheaper and cheaper, he said.
"(This year) will be the first time you will be able to get data quick in a way that you've never seen before," Colby said.
Crop Production Week continues all week at TCU Place, Prairieland Park and the Saskatoon Inn.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
Although not extensively used as of yet, the drone’s capabilities (most notably in agriculture) continue to gain recognition from experts worldwide.
GOING BEYOND THE REALMS TO SAVE OUR RHINOS
The European Space Agency (ESA) has provided an inkling of hope in what is already a dire situation when it comes to rhino poaching in South Africa. It comes in the form of a new technique that uses space telescope technology which could help protect these creatures as the frightening statistics continue to soar.
Chuck Bednar | 8 January 2015 | redOrbit.com
A record-number of rhinos were killed by poachers in 2014, but the creatures could soon be getting a new ally in their fight for survival – the European Space Agency (ESA).
According to Reuters reports, at least 1,020 rhinos were killed in South Africa as of November, already surpassing the previous high of 1,004 that was set just one year beforehand. Experts say that the final tally is expected to hit at least 1,200, a nearly 400 percent increase since 2010.
As of February 2013, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported that there were slightly more than 5,000 critically-endangered black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and about 20,000 near-threatened white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) living in Africa. Now, a new technique that uses space telescope technology could help rangers protect these creatures.
Students from Cranfield University in the UK are using high-resolution imaging technology originally developed by the ESA for use in space telescopes, mounting it to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and using it to help rangers in their efforts to protect African rhinos.
"Our proposal intends to develop lightweight and autonomous UAVs for observing in two main sectors: wildlife conservation, and search and rescue," said Idriss Sisaid, who along with fellow students Enrique Garcia Bourne and Edward Anastassacos won the ESA Technology Transfer Program Office's 2014 Space Solutions University (S2UN) Challenge.
Using optical imaging and curved image field mapping technology patented by the European space organization, their Horus project was able to produce aerial imagery in real time, and at a lower cost than existing alternatives. Their technique, which is installed on UAVs, could monitor large areas and help rangers know where poachers are hunting rhinos and other animals.
"ESA patent 561 presented us with a platform technology to produce inherently high-quality, non-distorted and wide-angle images. When applied to UAVs, this allows far greater coverage and improved performance when compared to UAVs with more traditional cameras," said Bourne.
The Horus project also allows for quicker responses to incidents, the agency explained. When emergency situations arise, the UAV can scan large areas and immediately provide response teams with detailed information which they can quickly act upon. Likewise, it provides constant coverage over vast swaths of land to continually combat poaching-related activities.
"In providing rangers and non-governmental organizations with this crucial monitoring ability at limited cost, Horus could boost effectiveness and efficiency," the ESA said. "The team is now assessing how best to develop their idea... with the objective of turning it into a viable business."
"Our success in ESA's Challenge is the first step of the project," said Anastassacos. "Continued development of the imaging system based on the ESA's patent will bring us one step closer to the prototyping phase. We look forward to seeing our idea take flight."
Their work could prove to be vital in what conservationists believe will be an important year ahead for the South African rhino species.
"2015 will be key, possibly the most significant yet in the battle to save the world's iconic animals," Richard Thomas, spokesman for the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, told Reuters. "If the resources now being directed at this fail to put a big dent in the poaching figures, we need to find out what went wrong and why and amend our approach."
With rhino poaching figures spiralling out of control, desperate and even extraordinary measures are being considered to save the animal.
DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT!
Too lazy to go fetch your takeaway order or caught up at work? Don’t panic … soon your Regina pizza could be arriving on your doorstep at a drop of a hat and according to South Africa’s top investigative journalism show Carte Blanche, the drone along with the selfie stick, is set to be one of the leading trends in 2015. Dion Change explores the commercial use of these robocopters.
Dion Chang | 11 January 2015 | www.fluxtrends.co.za
In December last year Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, made an announcement on the TV programme 60 Minutes that his company was working on a 30-minute delivery for online shoppers using drones, and that the service should be available by 2016. He said that this form of delivery would, "completely eliminate the lack of instant gratification currently lacking from shopping online."
The statement was met with derision: from accusations of it being simply a cheap marketing gimmick, to an idea that was simply ludicrous and far-fetched. But the concept of drone delivery is actually right on our doorsteps and Bezos' timeline for 2016 is pretty accurate. If it weren't for the red tape and security clearances required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the technology not only exists but drone delivery is already being used commercially – albeit in a non regulated fashion. Amazon's drone delivery service would be the first major commercial application of the technology. As one tech writer pointed out, "Amazon is not starting, but joining the drone delivery revolution."
Drones are not new. The modern day drone, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) as they have always been referred to, was already being used by the military in the mid 20th century. Surveillance and reconnaissance were their primary function, especially by America during the Vietnam War. It is only recently that they have come onto the radar (so to speak) of the average citizen, thanks to the on-going leaks by Edward Snowdon. Drone surveillance, in the name of homeland security, has understandably unnerved many US citizens, which even prompted new York based artist/designer, Adam Harvey, to design a "Stealth Wear" clothing line, which includes an "anti-drone hoodie": a hooded top that uses metalized material designed to counter thermal imaging used by drones.
However, fun loving South Africans have taken a different approach to drones, and used them to delivery beers at the Oppikoppi festival last year. With the help of an app and the GPS location via smart phones, revelers were able to receive their beers via a parachute drop from a drone. The drone was nicknamed "Manna" after the Old Testament-story of bread that fell from the sky. More recently, camera drones were being used to provide an aerial view of the media circus outside the courtroom on the first day of the Oscar Pistorius trial.
Back in America there is a scramble to use drones commercially. The Domino's pizza chain are experimenting with the "Domicopter", a drone that will deliver a hot pizza to your front door, while some restaurants are delivering plates of food to their tables as a novel tech gimmick. For Valentines Day this year an online florist, FlowerDeliveryExpress.com, started to deliver boxes of flowers using drones, but was ordered to stop by the FAA. However, a federal judge ruled that the FAA had no jurisdiction over small drone aircraft. The judge argued that if he accepted the FAA's argument for regulating drones, "a flight in the air of a paper airplane or a toy balsa wood glider could subject the operator to FAA penalties". This ruling could prove to be a watershed moment for commercial drone deliveries, as it begins to carve out a completely new niche for UAV's as a regulated form of delivery that dovetails perfectly – and logically – with the rise and rise of online shopping.
Regulation is obviously crucial, which is why the Amazon timeline of 2016 is realistic. Even if delivery drones were given permission to only fly under a certain height, our skies would become the new "wild west" if no order were imposed.
Cynics of course all revert to the same question: "what if people simply shot the drones down?" and in South Africa this would probably be a real concern given the ingenuity that some of our criminals show. If criminals blow up ATM's, then shooting down a drone would be like taking sweets from a child.
Discussions and legislation about air space, 3rd party risk, loss and insurance and criminal interception are all issues that need to be brought forward. My point is that drone delivery is not just a futuristic dream, or a concept with insurmountable problems. Sooner or later (I bet sooner) these operational issues will be resolved. The technology has been for half a century, and much like the Internet, which was first used for internal military purposes, so too will drones shift from military use to become the new mechanical workhorses of our digital era.
Get used to the idea now, because while the debate and derision is all about the commercial application of appeasing people's desire for instant gratification for online shopping, the next wave will be far more useful, and important. Think instead of the benefits of delivering life saving drugs and medication to rural areas or disaster zones that are cut off from rescue teams. Suddenly, the concept of drone delivery doesn't seem so superficial any more, but rather a 21st century concept we will have us all wondering why we didn't start using drones earlier.
Drone delivery is set to become a reality with retail giants Amazon targeting 2016 offering online shoppers instant gratification, a concept already explored in the United States.
THE PENTAGON’S NEED FOR SPEED
The next three years will see the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tackle a massive research undertaking in the search for drones being able to fly similar to that of a bird.
Once achieved, the Pentagon is aiming to have an unmanned aerial system which can fly for ten minutes, travel at 45 miles an hour over a distance of up to a kilometre and make use of a 20-watt computer in spaces formerly unoccupied.
Joe Gould Defense News | 5 January 2015 | C4ISR & Networks
The Pentagon's advanced R&D arm wants to help drones fly the crowded skies—using a new class of algorithms.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that it is seeking an algorithm, or software "brain," aimed at high-speed aerial navigation in cluttered environments as part of its Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program.
"Birds and flying insects maneuver easily at high speeds near obstacles," DARPA's solicitation notes. "The FLA program asks the question 'How can autonomous flying robotic systems achieve similar high-speed performance?'"
DARPA envisions such a system performing reconnaissance in areas previously considered denied, such as a protected or structurally damaged building.
But such technology could have applications off the battlefield. The solicitation came a month after an FAA report leaked that detailed nearly 200 safety incidents involving commercial drones and commercial aircraft, and days ahead of the FAA's safety campaign for the holiday hot-seller.
DARPA's technology would take the pilot out of the equation. Remote-controlled unmanned aerial systems for the most part rely on a skilled pilot, on-board sensors and reliable signals between the pilot man and platform. Alternatively, a drone could use pre-determined way-points, but that approach depends on GPS signals, which can fail indoors or be jammed.
Modeled after the capabilities of a bird, these drones in the final demonstration would have to fly for ten minutes, travel at 45 miles per hour, fly as far as a kilometer, use a 20-watt computer and use no communications after the initial "go" command.
The agency is offering $5.5 million in research funding. Phase 1, from mid 2015 to mid 2017, is focused on an an outdoor slalom course, the inside of a warehouse and indoor offices. Before wrapping up at the end of 2018, Phase 2 would tackle doors and windows, the bane of real birds everywhere.
Inspired by birds, the DARPA is seeking to develop drones aimed at high-speed aerial navigation in cluttered environments as part of its Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program during the next three years.
ANSWERING THE SOS CALL
With the technology surrounding drones evolving at a phenomenal rate, the industry has just added another feather to its already impressive cap, this time in the form of a lifesaving operation aimed at swimmers who find themselves in emergency situations.
Stu Roberts | 5 January 2015 | www.gizmag.com
The speed that drones can be deployed makes them ideal for delivering items when time is of the essence. The Ambulance Drone and Defikopter, for example, are used for transporting defibrillators to those in need. Now, Project Ryptide plans to use drones to deliver life-rings to swimmers in distress.
Unlike the similar Pars aerial robot, the Ryptide is not actually a drone itself. It's an attachment designed to be installed on a drone and carry a folded, inflatable life-ring. When the drone has been flown to a location above the distressed swimmer, a button on the drone controller can be pressed to remotely release the life-ring. When the life-ring hits the water, a salt tablet dissolves allowing a spring pin to pierce a CO2 cartridge and the life-ring to inflate in about 3 seconds.
The project, which is at pre-production prototype stage, was conceived by Bill Piedra, a part-time teacher at the King Low Heywood Thomas (KLHT) school in Stamford, Connecticut. Piedra began working on the design in January 2014 and then began developing it further with students at KLHT in September 2014.
"Ryptide was designed so that anyone can be a lifeguard," Piedra tells Gizmag. "We had the casual user in mind when we designed the basic model; someone that might take their drone to the beach, boating, a lake, or even ice skating. It could be useful in the case of someone falling through the ice while skating, for example."
There will be three different versions of the Ryptide. The basic model is designed to attach to most small drones with no tools required and weighs 420 g (14.8 oz). The multi-ring model can carry up to four life-rings that can be dropped one at a time and weighs in at heavier 890 g (31.4 oz). The final version will carry four life-rings as well as a camera.
The life-rings used by the Ryptide are reusable and can be "recharged" using a kit that will be available with the attachment. Piedra says the life-rings are SOLAS Approved (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea), with United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) approval pending.
A crowdfunding campaign for Project Ryptide is expected to be launched on Kickstarter this month. The targeted funds will be used to build and market the system.
A part-time teacher in the United States is behind Project Ryptide which is bound to save many lives in the future by being able to timeously release inflatable life-rings to swimmers in need.
SA AVIATION AUTHORITIES CROSS FIRST HURDLE
Two leading national aviation bodies have joined forces in reaching common ground as the industry in South Africa looks set to adopt final legislation earmarked for March 2015.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA) finally saw eye to eye with regards to the details of the ‘Phase 1 RPAS Regulations.’
10 December 2014 | http://www.uasvision.com
After many work group meetings, SACAA has finally reached agreement with CUAASA on the details of the "Phase 1 RPAS Regulations". The decision was made by the SACAA senior management that South Africa must have legislation in place by end March 2015, a deadline that put them under massive pressure.
CUAASA and SACAA rather want safe and usable legislation and that the date is not their goal. Having said this, middle ground had to be found.
"We are of opinion that although we as an industry achieved almost all the "requirements to operate", SACAA are still overregulating in some instances. We agreed with SACAA that this workgroup would have a critical and ongoing task to even update and "fix" the holes on a monthly basis. The areas where we believe they overregulate are not a real problem for the industry but it will just make their already difficult task impossible to perform.
We are very glad that South Africa will be able to operate B-VLOS and Night flights as it is a critical requirement in South Africa and that we also "created" the R-VLOS Restricted Line of Sight for operators who will be flying in between 'high buildings and natural obstacles'.
The real challenge will be "Phase 2 and upward" with the light units a start, however our industry is already operating much larger systems commercially," read the CUAASA statement.
The full submission can be downloaded here.
With UAV technology constantly evolving, the regulatory process is expected to remain work in progress as aviation authorities continue to seek consensus.
UAVs DOING THEIR BIT FOR CONSERVATION
Wildlife and conservation bodies throughout the US are relying on UAVs as they look to improve on the overall quality and frequency of these operations as well as guarantee the safety of their staff. With budgets continuously under the knife, the authorities have had to convince the powers that be and judging by all the advantages to be gained, they are well on track.
By Luke Geiver | 31 December 2014 | UAS Magazine
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is looking to small unmanned aircraft vehicles to reduce risk associated with aerial data gathering, maintain its aerial survey frequency and to improve overall survey accuracy.
The ODFW has applied for a grant that would provide roughly $50,000 for the purchase and use of an sUAV capable of performing survey's previously performed by ODFW staff in helicopters. "Downward trends in state budgets are resulting in cancellation of some surveys and reduced effort on many of the remaining surveys," the ODFW said in its application for the grant. "In 2013 an ODFW charted helicopter crashed while conducting a Chinook Reed survey on the Umpqua river. All three people inside the helicopter were severely injured. The Director of ODFW tasked staff to initiate an experimental unmanned aerial systems program to be used to conduct aerial fish and wildlife surveys as a step to reduce injury and loss of life for ODFW field staff."
The application by the ODFW would allow its team to evaluate the use of sUAVs as a way to reduce per light data acquisition costs reduce risk to staff. Implementing a sUAV for aerial surveys could reduce per flight data acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, the ODFW said, while also allowing for the potential to perform more surveys. The use of high-resolution payload offerings would also negate duplicity amongst images taken during surveys and allow the ODFW to more accurately assess fish and wildlife. The images could also be more easily and effectively tagged for use at a later, unspecified date. ODFW surveys on elk have already benefited from basic high resolution images, the department noted in its application.
There are four main components of the proposal by the ODFW to use a sUAV. First, the ODFW must receive the appropriate permits through the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Second, it must receive landowner access for areas in which it intends to operate from. Third, it needs to acquire a UAV and lastly, it needs to find a way to adequately acquire and store data taken from a UAV.
According to the ODFW, it has already attained the necessary permits from the FAA and has six certificate of authorizations pending that if approved, would allow the ODFW to implement UAVs once purchased.
The ODFW anticipates it will receive its COAs in early 2015 and begin performing surveys on birds, elk and fish throughout the year. Imagery taken will only include the stream corridor and a few meters on each side of the bank.
The budget for the initiation of the sUAV into ODFW's operations shows that the department would spend roughly $16,000 for two Falcon Hover Quadcopters along with ground stations. Another $3,000 would be spent on a Sony NEX7 mapping and sensor unit. To train a pilot would cost $5,609, according to the application.
By increasing the number of surveys performed by UAVs, the bird and fish population of Oregon in the United States is set to be further protected and enhanced.
FROM AERIAL TO AQUA TO AMPHIBIOUS!
Move over QuadH2o and hello HexH2o! This new kid on the block (or sea) has taken the UAV world by storm thanks to its remarkable capabilities which enables it to land on water and capture underwater footage through its well-equipped makeup which includes extra props, an internal fan and exterior mounted heat sink as well as a carbon fiber body that can float.
2 January 2015 | James Carroll | www.vision-systems.com
The UAV, which is developed by Thailand-based QuadH2o, is an improvement upon the initial UAV model, also named QuadH2o. In addition to featuring a waterproof carbon fiber body that floats, the multi-rotor HexH2o features extra props in the event that if one fails, the aircraft can remain flying.
In addition, the UAV features an internal fan and exterior-mounted heat sink to prevent overheating.
A three-axis Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal outsourced from DJI enables users to mount a GoPro Hero camera to provide both above and below the surface imaging capabilities. In addition, the domed acrylic viewing port features anti-reflection glare. The HexH2o also utilizes DJI motors and props, along with its GPS-augmented Naza V2 flight control system.
With the ability to image both above and below the surface of water, the UAV may open up new applications. For example, early last year I wrote about a project in which a "marsupial" robotic system comprised of an autonomous surface vehicle and a UAV provided autonomous riverine environmental monitoring. The project paired the ASV with a piggy-backed multi-rotor UAV for the automatic monitoring of riverine environments from an aerial, surface, and underwater view. This coordinated aerial, underwater, and surface level perception was designed for the gathering of robust environmental data. Both of the cooperative robots feature an integrated vision system which enables the robots to "see" and navigate.
Given the abilities of the HexH2o, perhaps the UAV would be able to provide the imaging needs of both the ASV and the UAV, though the flying time of the UAV's battery may limit the amount of data that could be gathered in a day's work. Aside from something like this, what else might the UAV be used for?
The new waterproof drone from the makers of QuadH2o, makes filming possible from both the air and underwater. (Source: www.quadh20.com)
UNWANTED INTRUDERS TARGETED
The South African National Parks body (SANparks) has warned illegal drone users that their days of disturbing animals are numbered. Just last week, two separate incidents were reported in the Kruger National Park by thankfully observant visitors and authorities have vowed to bring such perpetrators to book who use UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for game viewing, photography and filming. This comes just weeks before the SACAA (South African Civil Aviation Authority) is set to complete their UAV draft regulation.
31 December 2014 | Traveller24 via www.news24.com
Cape Town - The technological advancement of the trophy holiday video has brought with it a few regulatory headaches. SANParks says visitors are taking liberties by flying drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) illegally in its parks and disturbing the well-being of the wildlife.
Current civil aviation legislation does not provide for certification, registration and/or operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the South African civil aviation airspace - with offenders facing a R50k fine and/or 10 years in jail. The SACAA is expected to complete its UAV draft regulation in early 2015.
South African National Parks (SANParks) has issued a statement warning individuals against flying unmanned aerial vehicles (such as drones) either for game viewing, filming, photography or any other purposes during their visit/stay in any of the National Parks, particularly the Kruger National Park (KNP).
SANParks reiterated that the practice is illegal as National Parks are legislated protected areas with restricted airspace, therefore a no-fly zone for all unauthorized aircraft systems.
"We have had two incidents reported by tourists in the KNP recently of people flying such aircraft illegally, getting out of vehicles on undesignated areas, interfering in sightings; disturbing and stalking animals; only to feign innocence upon questioning,", said KNP's General Manager, Communications & Marketing, William Mabasa.
"We would like to inform such people and other drone users that, should they be found flying them in the Park at any time, they will be arrested on the spot and their equipment will be seized."
The behaviour of these tourists is in contravention of the NEMA Protected Areas Act, but there are also restrictions in terms of the aerial filming rights and therefore an infringement of SANParks' filming/photography policy said Mabasa.
The NEMA Protected Areas Act states that "it is illegal to fly below 2 500 feet above the highest point of any national park, including the KNP, with any aircraft/drone without the express permission of the Management Authority of the particular National Park i.e. SANParks.
"These kinds of incidents can negatively impact on the well-being of animals as well as the experience of other visitors. We would like to specifically thank the guests, who reported one of the incidents to the nearest camp."
SANParks said it would like to catch these law-breakers in the act and further incidents could be reported to the Emergency Call Centre numbers 013 735 5516/076 801 9679.
Authorities are on the warpath following reports of illegal drone users disturbing the well-being of elephants and other animals in the Kruger National Park.
NEW ANACONDA SET TO HIT THE SKIES
This new aircraft, which can also fly autonomously, will primarily be used to fly over the maize crops in the DRC. Complete with a mounted multispectral camera, it also has the capacity to simultaneously carry other imaging equipment like high-definition and video cameras and consists of a long distance antenna adding to the success of lengthy hauls as well as providing ease of control.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Anaconda which will be launched overseas in the coming weeks. It is expected to perform well considering its uniqueness and cost-effectiveness.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED FOR HAEVIC DUO
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to experience the "Parc Agro Industriel' initiative in the district of Bukanga-Lonzo first hand share one common fascination ... the sheer size of it all.
The Haevic duo consisting of drone experts Gerhard Coetzee and Louis Nel are amazed having just returned from the village and farming development somewhat 260km east of the DRC capital Kinshasa, which once finished, will stretch over an area of 80 000 ha.
It was during their 12-day stay that the pair were introduced to everyday life within this unique project which turned out to be an amazing learning experience for the pair on both a personal and professional level.
The main purpose of the trip, according to Coetzee, was to fly 1000ha with an infra-red, multi-spectrum camera. But due to the drone's inability to cover such areas, this wasn't possible. However it was still considered a huge success.
"We are completely satisfied with the quality of the infra-red photos," said Coetzee.
"Our second task was to take as many photos and videos as humanly possible. I think we did a very good of doing that taking the wide range of photos available."
Last but not least was the setting up of internet data links.
With the existing data link proving too costly and slow, Coetzee and Nel made the offer to the Agricultural Business Park to set up their own links which are a lot faster and cheaper, making uploading and downloading possible. The setting up process will be completed in January once the containers with the necessary equipment arrives.
All in all, the duo's journey can be deemed extremely fruitful. And while some expectations weren't met (eg. drone's capability of covering extensive areas), Coetzee and Nel felt their trip did wonders for the road ahead for everyone involved in this exciting development.
"Johan Jonker, the Operations Manager, who also didn't know what to expect, learnt a lot. He was very involved in what we were doing and went out with us often which helped in establishing what he can expect from us," noted Coetzee.
Their visit also coincided with the arrival of delegates from a number of important institutions like The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, as well as the US Embassy on Saturday, December 6 during which Nel and Coetzee were offered the opportunity show a video as well as fly their "super drone" over the gathering of delegates.
What makes this drone so super and one-of-its-kind is the positioning of the propellers (on top and underneath) which allows for extremely long, overlapping blades. A light frame accompanied by shorter arms with powerful motors on each end, further adds to the incredible lift without sacrificing weight.
Coetzee says that all of these super drones doing the rounds in South Africa have propellers on the top end which forces the usage of smaller blades and therefore diminishes the lifting capabilities.
Spurred on by a company in Kempton Park, Coetzee and Nel set out to build this trailblazing copter.
"We are extremely proud of this super drone which behaved very well in the DRC and was an absolute pleasure to fly."
NO BAN ON DRONES ISSUED: SACAA
Pretoria - No specific notice or regulation to ban unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also popularly known as drones, has been issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa).
In a statement on Tuesday, Sacaa said reports that suggest that Sacaa has recently issued a notice banning UAS systems, specifically in the film industry, were inaccurate.
However, Sacaa is working on the integration of drones into the South African airspace.
"Sacaa has never issued any specific notice or regulation banning the use of unmanned aircraft systems. The current Civil Aviation Regulations prescribe specific requirements for operating an aircraft in the South African airspace. To date, no UAS has been able to comply with these requirements," said Sacaa spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba.
Media reports last week claimed that the use of flying drones with mounted cameras has been banned with immediate effect by Sacaa.
Sacaa is cognisant of the urgent need and demand for UAS implementation.
"It is for this reason that Sacaa has allocated the necessary resources to the UAS programme to ensure a speedy integration of this type of aircraft into the South African airspace. In addition, Sacaa is currently compiling an interim guidance document as a provisional solution to enable restricted operational approval on a case-by-case basis, until maturity is attained by both the industry and Sacaa," said Ledwaba.
Progress on this front has been made, with the document expected to be ready before the end of the current financial year (i.e. 31 March 2015).
"Engagement with industry representatives will continue and Sacaa remains receptive to any input from role players," Ledwaba said.
Sacaa additionally has given no authority to any organisation or government entity to operate drones.
"Those that are flying any type of unmanned aircraft are doing so illegally. The current civil aviation regulations mandate the SACAA to ensure safety and security in relation to any flying activities in the Republic," said Ledwaba.
Last month, the authority had issued a statement about the illegality of flying drones.
Sacaa also noted that the statement also attracted a negative response, as security concerns were reduced to a debate on drones and toys that generally do not require any operating permission.
Sacaa has the mandate to ensure aviation safety and security for all South Africans.
Ledwaba said that Sacaa is committed to the development of the country's aviation sector, especially the UAS sector, which is a relatively new component of the civil aviation framework.
"This constitutes a relatively new component of the civil aviation framework, one which the Sacaa - together with civil aviation authorities worldwide and under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) - is working to understand, define and ultimately integrate into the civil aviation sector."
South Africa is a signatory state of ICAO, a United Nations body, and has invested heavily - through active involvement in the ICAO Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group - to develop guidance material and standards to guide contracting states in the development of their national guidance material and regulations.
ICAO is working towards providing a regulatory framework through Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), with supporting Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS) and guidance material, to underpin the routine operation of UAS in a safe, harmonised and seamless manner comparable to that of manned operations.
Sacaa is an agency of the Department of Transport. - SAnews.gov.za
AS REPORTED ON SKY NEWS – 8 DECEMBER 2014
Aviation safety authorities are increasingly worried about the danger drones pose to commercial jets. In July, an airline pilot reported a near miss with an unmanned craft at 700ft whilst approaching Heathrow airport.
Sky's Alex Rossi reports:
"There has been an explosion in drone use over the last few years. Whilst many operators use them safely, others are being flown recklessly in the skies above us. And according to a new aviation report, one of these radio controlled vehicles nearly collided with a passenger jet this summer.
The general secretary of BALPA, Jim McAuslan, says it would be very easy for a near-miss to become a disaster.
He said: "Unless we put in place the regulation now and have enforcement procedures that are practical in operating efficiently then we are going to see an accident.
"It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to imagine a 3kg weight going at speed ingested into a jet engine or hitting a widescreen."
The incident happened on 22 July near Heathrow - which is the UK's busiest.
The pilot who spotted the drone was flying an Airbus A320 carrying as many as 180 passengers.
The report is expected to class the incident as category "A", meaning there was a serious risk of collision.
With the cost of drone technology falling, they are being used for everything from promotional videos to gathering pictures for the news.
And this Christmas thousands of drones are likely to be sold on the high street and online.
But experts including the managing director of Horizon Imaging, David Hogg, say a lack of training is a concern when so many amateur operators are now taking their drones up in the air.<p">He said: 'In the early days of model flying which is mainly where this problem is arising, you would go to a model flying club, you'd be taught how to fly and you'd learn all the safety aspects that way.
"These days that is completely by-passed. You can buy one with no prior knowledge of how to operate them and that's when the problem arises.'
With so many applications, drones will be part of the technological landscape for years to come but it means it may only be a matter of time before the Government introduces tighter regulations."