It was just this June that we heard about the HEXO+
drones, which were two of the first consumer multicopters to offer a Follow function – that's the ability to track the location of their user, and fly along above them. Since then, models including the Iris+
have come out with the same feature. Now, Chinese/American company Ehang is successfully raising production funds for its Follow-equipped GoPro-toting Ghost Drone. Developed in partnership with Duke University, not only is the quadcopter able to track and film its user, but it's also reportedly easier to fly than its competitors.
If pilot projects from companies like Bizzby
and DHL Parcel
are any indication, the skies of Europe could soon be buzzing with parcel delivery drones. GeoPost, the express delivery arm of French mail service La Poste, has now revealed that it undertook drone delivery testing at the Centre d'Etudes et d'Essais pour Modèles Autonomes (CEEMA) in September.
2014 wasn’t the year that drones first entered the consumer lexicon, but it did see the notion of using these unmanned vehicles to our advantage become much more palatable. Package deliveries and carrying out conventional robotic tasks are some concepts that have defined the progress of drones in the past 12 months, but, as is typical of emerging technologies, the more their potential is realized the more they find uses in unexpected new applications. Let’s have a look over some of the year’s more surprising, yet significant, drone projects that promise to shake things up in exciting new ways.
Readers who checked out our recent article on the Seahorse human-powered airboat
may have noticed something at least as impressive in the accompanying video – a camera-equipped quadcopter that can land on the water to shoot underwater footage. It's called the QuadH2o, and is made by a Thailand-based company of the same name. Now, that drone is about to be joined by a companion that sports another two propellers, along with some other extra features. It's time to say hello to the HexH2o.
We're all familiar with hybrid cars, but hybrid planes are virtually unheard of. Now though, researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK, have partnered with Boeing to test what they say is the first hybrid-electric aircraft. It is said to use 30 percent less fuel than a gas-only equivalent.
and Belgium's Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
are working on drone-based delivery projects that utilize UAVs which take off and land vertically, but that can also tip sideways to transition into fast and efficient fixed-wing flight. If you're thinking that it would be neat to purchase a consumer drone that could do the same thing – combining the hovering capability of a quadcopter with the speed of a "flying wing"-type plane – a new one may soon be available, in the form of the X PlusOne.
When you're using helicopters to dump water on forest fires, it goes without saying that the faster you can obtain and deliver water from lakes or other sources, the better. Most currently-used systems are able to gather H2O at rates ranging from 1,700 to 4,000 liters (450 to 1,056 US gal) per minute, which is fairly impressive. A new system developed by Spanish firm Inventec, however, is claimed to be capable of sucking up 1,000 L (264 gal) in just five seconds
– that scales up to a rate of 12,000 L (3,170 gal) per minute. What's more, it's also said to be safer.
In another small, but promising step toward the adoption of commercial drones in the US, the Federal Aviation Administration has granted exemptions to four companies that clear their unmanned aircraft systems for takeoff.
One of the world's largest photographic retailers is now getting into the camera-equipped drone market, with Adorama announcing its Aries Blackbird X10 quadcopter. Among other things, the little copter shoots 1080p/30fps video, captures 16-megapixel stills, and has a flight time of 25 minutes per charge of its 5,300-mAh lithium-polymer battery.
Perhaps one of the reasons most people are so blasé about the miracle of human flight these days is that for the most part, we're totally cut off from it. Peering through the milky, scratched glass of a passenger plane window offers just a tiny, claustrophobic glimpse of the world falling away beneath you - what the pilot sees would make the layman's heart sing with joy. And that's the simple thought behind the Triton concept design – to give passengers the most involving and magnificent experience possible, and maybe even inspire them to become pilots themselves.