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Aircraft

It's easy to be inspired when you see some of the aerial photography captured by drones. Perhaps inspired enough to get a camera drone of your own. But one of the hurdles in doing so (apart from the price) is learning to fly the thing, let alone capture nice shots with it. But there are a number of companies looking to break down these barriers by building drones that automate much of the piloting process. The latest to join the fray is Silicon Valley-based startup Lily, whose aircraft starts flying and snapping all by itself, all you need to do is toss it into the air.

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When you're developing something as complex and ambitious as a flying car, you've got to expect a few hiccups along the way – and Slovakia-based AeroMobil certainly experienced one last Friday, when its AeroMobil 3.0 prototype crash-landed.

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Drone deliveries hey? What could be more convenient than having the milk for your cereal arrive fresh each morning, or that forgotten dinner ingredient plonked down on the doorstep just as you fire up the stove? Well, details now revealed in an Amazon patent application suggest that if its Prime Air drones do materialize, they mightn't just be limited to making house calls. The application outlines plans for drones that track a customer's GPS position, flagging the possibility of having items brought to you even when you're out and about.

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Amazon's ambitious plans to deliver small parcels by drones just took another little jump towards reality, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launching a new program to study the use of drones beyond the operator's line of sight. The initiative sees the agency team up with three companies to take drone technology forward, with the ultimate goal of hastening the safe integration of the vehicles into US airspace.

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Drones may have gone mainstream, but it's not everyday that you see an entry to that marketplace from a veteran technologist with a history of popularizing clever little robot vacuum cleaners. Having already built a pair of industry-oriented drones, Roomba co-designer Helen Grainer's startup CyPhy Works has made its first flirt with the consumer space with a moderately priced six-rotor drone that takes flight with a swipe of the smartphone screen.

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In seeking a compromise between helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, engineers in recent years have opted for tilt rotors, but NASA has dusted off and improved on a tilt wing aircraft design that takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like an airplane. Called the Greased Lightning, or GL-10, the unmanned prototype made a successful vertical takeoff and transition to horizontal flight at Fort A.P. Hill, not far from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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Flying a drone can be a nerve-racking experience. No matter how careful you are, there's always a chance that your several-hundred-dollar aircraft could lose a prop, lose power, or otherwise get messed up and come plummeting to the ground. That's why Nashville-based videographer and drone enthusiast Michael Pick developed SmartChutes. Read More
Once Syria's bustling economic center, an unrelenting barrage of artillery fire, gunfights and makeshift bombs have ravaged the city of Aleppo in the last two years. Getting food and medicine to civilians is a nearly impossible task for aid groups, but one thing Aleppo and other suffering communities in northern Syria have in their favor is the close proximity of the Turkish border. So close it is that one former US Air Force cargo pilot believes launching humanitarian drones from inside Turkey is the best chance of getting these people the help they need. Read More
While armed drones like the Predator tend to attract most of the attention when it comes to military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the unmanned K-MAX helicopter recently demonstrated its ability to evacuate wounded fighters from a hypothetical battlefield. Read More
Small airports are often in a no-win situation. They don't have much traffic because they don't have an adequate tower system, and they don't have an adequate tower system because they don't have much traffic. That could be about to change, with the opening of the world's first remotely operated air-traffic control system in Sweden. Thanks to the Remote Tower Services (RTS) system, the first plane landed last week at Örnsköldsvik Airport, but it was controlled from the LFV Remote Tower Centre 123 km away in Sundsvall. Read More
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