A Drone Tried to Attack a Pennsylvania Power Station in 2020

Wired published a fascinating story of a unknown person who used a drone to attempt to short circuit a power substation last year.

The operator of the Pennsylvania drone appears to have attempted a less brute-force approach. But efforts to hide the operator’s identity may have contributed to their failure to connect with the intended target. By removing the camera, the joint bulletin says, they had to rely on line-of-sight navigation, rather than being able to take a drone’s eye view.

Airborne Drone Deliveries to Start in Dallas-Fort Worth

Anybody want their prescriptions airlifted to them? Walgreens customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will have that option soon. Alphabet-owned drone deployment system Wing has partnered with the drug store chain to make drone deliveries a reality. The drone flights have been in testing out of Fort Worth-based Hillwoods Alliance Texas Flight Test Center. In the coming weeks, the drones will launch from Walgreens parking lots. The’ll initially deliver to a portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth region including Frisco and Little Elm. If successful, the companies plan to roll the drone deliveries out even further after a few months. Alphabet says businesses can also deploy the drones from rooftops or next to buildings. UPS began testing drone delivery in 2018. The company has recently used drones to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, but this is yet another commercial application of the technology.

Until now, this type of service in the United States has been limited to smaller towns, where land usage is less crowded and complex. Wing’s reliable aircraft and advanced flight planning and routing capabilities make it uniquely capable of operating a highly automated drone delivery service in more crowded, complex operating environments.

 

Running Into The Woods Will No Longer Save You From Drones

Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed [PDF] an AI system that can help drones fly through complex environments at up to 40kmph.

An algorithm first piloted a computer-generated drone through a simulated environment that contained complex obstacles. This data was used to train the drone’s neural network to predict a flight path based on information from onboard sensors. The system was then tested in various real-world environments, such as forests, collapsed buildings, and derailed trains.

Future Drones Could Hunt You By Your Screams

Researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer FKIE institute are building first responder drones that could track people by their screams.

While it’s easy to imagine human-seeking drones in a sci-fi horror movie, Varela says the gadget would be ideal for post-disaster scenarios, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires. They could hover over an area that rescue crews have difficulty getting to and pinpoint where people may be trapped.

Here's Why DARPA Wants Underground Tunnels

Popular news yesterday was about how DARPA, a military research agency, put out a request for giant underground tunnels by August 30. The media made it seem like it was some mysterious, scary thing, saying that DARPA didn’t give reasons. But they actually did, and it’s called the DARPA Subterranean Challenge (SubT).

The SubT Challenge is organized into two competitions (Systems and Virtual), each with two tracks (DARPA-funded and self-funded). Teams in the Systems tracks will develop and demonstrate physical systems to compete in live competitions on physical, representative subterranean courses, and focus on advancing and evaluating novel physical solutions in realistic field environments. Teams in the Virtual tracks will develop software and algorithms using virtual models of systems, environments, and terrain to compete in simulation-based events, and explore larger-scale runs in simulated environments that explore significantly expanded scenario sizes and durations.

If we read between the lines, I think a safe assumption is that this is about developing and improving autonomous systems. Think laser mapping, self-driving vehicles, and indoor combat drones.

A Beginner-Friendly Drone from DJI That Won't Break the Bank: $99

We have a deal on the DJI Tello Quadcopter, an entry-level drone built in partnership with Ryze. It features electronic image stabilization, auto takeoff/landing, and low-battery protection, making it a safe choice for novice pilots. You can also control it from your iPhone or Android device. This drone is $99 through our deal—and there’s also a combo kit option for $149 with extra batteries and more.

Tree-Planting Drones Shoot the Forest Back

Startup Biocarbon Engineering use tree-planting drones that shoot the forest back in Myanmar and other places around the world.

The drones first fly over an area to map it, collecting data about the topography and soil condition that can be combined with satellite data and analyzed to determine the best locations to plant each seed. Then the drone fires biodegradable pods—filled with a germinated seed and nutrients—into the ground.