Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Drone

A Falcon 9 rocket with grid fins deployed

SpaceX is banking on its plan to recycle rockets as a means of cutting the cost of space travel and transport. CEO Elon Musk revealed the latest part of this puzzle over the weekend: the autonomous spaceport drone ship.  Read More

The Mind4 drone takes a different approach to tracking athletes from above

Among the swarm of consumer drones to emerge this year, a number have been aimed squarely at action sports devotees. What defines these vehicles is a tracking feature that enables the drone to autonomously follow athletes from above, but these generally require the user to carry a smartphone to communicate their GPS position. Streaming from a built-in camera to a smartphone app, the Mind4 drone instead allows users to select any object to follow onscreen, a feature that could lead to new possibilities in aerial drone photography.  Read More

The Skynet concept offers a solution to the problems posed by drone delivery

With drone technology progressing so quickly, it may not be too long before they start dropping packages at our doorsteps. But proposals for how the vehicles can safely navigate fences, pets and small children haven't been entirely convincing so far. A pair of Australians believe they have the answer, with a system that sees drones zero in to drop deliveries into a purpose-built net, guided by LEDs to ensure centimeter-perfect accuracy.  Read More

3D Robotics' new X8+ quadcopter

Launched just two months ago, 3D Robotics' Iris+ quadcopter has one big feature that separates it from the company's base Iris drone – it features a Follow Me function, which allows it to automatically fly along above a moving ground-based GPS-enabled Android device. Now, 3DR has added the same feature to its more utilitarian, heavy-duty X8 platform. The resulting X8+ quadcopter can not only autonomously get tracking shots of its biking, running or skiing user, but it can also be outfitted with a variety of cameras or other devices.  Read More

The DJI Inspire 1, with its landing gear and prop arms raised for flight

Although DJI Innovations is best-known for its line of "prosumer" Phantom quadcopters, it also makes a professional-use multicopter called the Spreading Wings. Among other things, that model features landing gear that folds up while the aircraft is in flight, so it won't get in the shot of the user's undercarriage-mounted video camera. Now, DJI has announced its new Inspire 1 quadcopter, which combines aspects of both the Phantom and the Spreading Wings.  Read More

Large military aircraft, such as the C-130 transport pictured above, could be converted to...

DARPA has submitted a request for information on how to turn existing military aircraft into "aircraft carriers of the sky." Ideally, the successful response would allow large manned aircraft to launch and recover multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), whilst requiring only minimal cost-effective adaptations to existing aircraft.  Read More

The eXom, with its camera head visible at the left, and one of the visual/ultrasound sensi...

Swiss company senseFly is best known for its fixed-wing industrial drones, such as the eBee and swinglet CAM. Parrot, on the other hand, has made its name with its consumer quadcopters. So, now that Parrot has owned senseFly for a couple of years, what's the result? The new senseFly eXom quadcopter, which uses multiple visual and ultrasonic sensors to avoid obstacles and maintain precise autonomous flight.  Read More

Bizzby has started conducting trials of its Bizzby Sky drone delivery service

It's hard not to get caught up in the romance of delivery drones, especially when start-ups keep producing spiffy promotional videos set in a fantastical land of airborne courier services. But underneath all this hoopla, progress is certainly being made. London-based Bizzby Sky has begun trials of its autonomous drone delivery service, claiming it is capable of shipping small objects at the touch of a smartphone button.  Read More

The SkySense Charging Pad is designed to enable automation of the recharging process

In addition to shotguns, regulations and laser defense systems, limited battery life is an obstacle that drone companies need to contend with in driving widespread adoption. Berlin-based startup SkySense is looking to play a part, developing a landing pad that doubles as a wireless charging station and promises yet another layer of automation.  Read More

Chinese scientists are reportedly developing a laser capable of shooting the drones out of...

Drones cruising through Chinese airspace may be set for rude awakening, with local scientists reportedly developing a laser capable of shooting the vehicles out of the sky. Chinese media are reporting that researchers from the China Academy of Engineering Physics have been working on a laser defense system to safeguard against the proliferating technology, and its early testing has been largely viewed as a success.  Read More

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