Highlights from Interbike 2014

Drone

We preferred to liberate the 55 g (1.95 oz) plastic body of its oversized wheels and let i...

Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet noisy enough to irritate everyone around you in eight-minute bursts, there's plenty of fun to be had with Parrot's new Rolling Spider Minidrone. Billed as an easy-to-use toy with a bag full of pre-set trickery, the Rolling Spider is aimed at drone novices keen to get their piloting ambitions off the ground. Join Gizmag, as we take Parrot's latest smartphone-controlled UAV for a spin.  Read More

The Iris+ quadcopter can follow a paired GPS-equipped Android device

Last year, 3D Robotics announced its Iris quadcopter drone. Like other similar products, it can either be flown manually using radio remote control, or it can use its onboard GPS to autonomously fly between a series of preprogrammed waypoints. Today, however, the company announced its successor, the Iris +. Its big feature is the Follow Me function, which allows it to automatically fly along above a moving ground-based GPS-enabled Android device. This means that when equipped with a GoPro actioncam, it can get tracking footage of you as you cycle, ski or surf.  Read More

Drone delivery company Flirtey has announced plans to expand overseas

Drone company Flirtey first caught our attention last year when it teamed up with fellow Australian startup Zookai, promising schoolbooks delivered by drone. Almost twelve months on, CEO Matt Sweeney has secured a partnership to conduct high-tech testing at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and is eyeing off New Zealand as a testbed to grow his business. So how does a startup hinged on the speculative concept of drone delivery navigate its way through a technological and regulatory minefield? We spoke with Sweeney on his plans to take Flirtey global.  Read More

An unmanned aerial system being developed by AREND aims to deter rhino poaching in Africa'...

Like many a technology before it, the aerial drone is finding applications far beyond military circles, from burrito delivery to surveying broken bridges. One emerging area with huge potential is wildlife conservation, with drones delivering the ability to patrol and detect illegal poachers from the air. AREND (Aircraft for Rhino and Environmental Defense) is an international team of students currently developing an unmanned aerial system with the ultimate objective of combating poaching in Africa's national parks.  Read More

A number of patent applications suggest Disney is looking to use UAVs in its theme park sh...

The weird and wonderful world of Disney may be about to get a little more weird and wonderful, depending on how you feel about drones. The Walt Disney Company has filed three patents suggesting it may intend to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to control giant marionettes, replace fireworks and suspend floating displays in its future theme park shows.  Read More

Project Wing is a Google X project aimed at developing self-flying delivery vehicles

Google has taken the lid off a previously secret project that is being run out of its semi-secret Google X research arm. Project Wing is focusing on the development of "a delivery system that uses self-flying vehicles." In other words, unmanned drones intended to autonomously deliver packages where and when they're needed.  Read More

A new algorithm developed at MIT enables delivery drones to better preserve their health i...

The prospect of delivery drones brings with it a few notable issues. Beyond visions of colliding rotor blades and unsolicited package drops lies another problem: the huge amount of computational power needed to take into account real world uncertainties, such as strong winds, limited battery life and navigational errors, in order to provide a reliable delivery service. This has been the focus of new study from MIT, with a team of researchers devising a new algorithm said to massively reduce the level of computation required, enabling the drone to monitor its "health" in real time.  Read More

Researchers have successfully paired a drone with a unmanned ground vehicle, enabling it t...

While continual improvements are allowing larger UAVs to stay in the air for longer, the lifting capacity and endurance of smaller UAVs is largely constrained by the weight and size of their batteries. In a move that could greatly expand the reach and applications of small UAVs, a team of robotics researchers propose pairing a UAV with a ground vehicle that would provide a place of respite. However, such a vision requires autonomous coordinated docking between the two vehicles, which is exactly what the team has achieved.  Read More

UAVs could someday be used to prevent bridge collapses, such as this one in Minneapolis  (...

When bridges are inspected for cracks and other defects that could lead to their collapse, engineers must either hang beneath those bridges on lines, or view them from elevated platforms. Whichever approach is used, a lot of setup is involved, and defects may get missed. In the future, however, unmanned aircraft may be able to more quickly and thoroughly check out bridges, working with wireless sensors built into the structures.  Read More

The VertiKUL drone in hovering mode

When something is sent to you by airmail, it travels in a fast and relatively fuel-efficient fixed-wing aircraft, not a fuel-guzzling helicopter. Nonetheless, when we hear about the possibility of drones being used to deliver items within cities, multirotor-style aircraft are almost always what's proposed – while they're good at maneuvering in urban spaces, they're essentially just little unmanned helicopters. With that in mind, a group of three engineering students from Belgium's KU Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) have created a prototype delivery drone known as VertiKUL, which combines the best features of both types of aircraft.  Read More

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