It's becoming increasingly likely that in the not-too-distant future, a drone may be what finds you if you're trapped in rubble at a disaster site. Now, it's also looking like one might come to your aid if you should get lost in the woods. That's because scientists have developed machine learning-based software that already allows quadcopters to follow forest paths better than humans.
At first glance, hydrogen fuel cells sound like a great power source for fixed-wing drones making long flights – they have much longer run times than batteries, and they emit no emissions other than water vapor. Unfortunately, the hydrogen typically has to be stored in large heavy pressurized tanks. Last month, however, a Raptor E1 electric drone made a successful test flight running on a unique new system that's actually lighter than the lithium-ion battery it replaced.
What goes up must come down, but how itcomes down can have a big impact on where and how it used. A case in point is an unmanned, electric-powered, autonomous aircraft that researchers in Germany have gently landed on top of a car traveling at 75 km/h (47 mph). According to the team, this is the first time this has been done and it demonstrates a technique that could lead to lighter, longer flying UAVs.
With a projected one million drones sold during the holidays, the potential security risks to everything from military installations to energy plants to airports increased as well. Bearing that in mind, Airbus Defence and Space recently introduced its Counter-UAV System as a way to detect potential UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) threats from a distance of between 5 and 10 km (3 and 6 miles) and bring them down with electronic countermeasures.
Last May, we heard about how Horizon Energy Systems was developing a hydrogen-powered quadcopter that could (hopefully) stay airborne for hours at a time. Soon, however, that drone may not be the only one doing so. That's because Intelligent Energy has unveiled a fuel cell/battery range extender that could become standard equipment on third-party drones.
Camera-carrying hobby drones are now large and sophisticated enough to allow anyone to take stills and videos that once would have required a helicopter. Unfortunately, that capability is marred when the drone's landing gear keeps getting in the way or when getting that video of a mountain glen means trekking in with an unwieldy flying machine. Yuneec International's Typhoon H hexacopter frees up the camera with retractable landing gear, plus it has a folding design that makes the craft backpackable.
As might be expected, there are a lot of drones on display this week at CES. Almost all of them have one thing in common, however: people can't ride in them. We say "almost all," as there is one exception. Ehang's 184 AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle) is designed to carry a single human passenger, autonomously flying them from one location to another.
The folks at Axis Drones are no strangers to zippy little quadcopters that fit in the palm of your hand. And while good things can come in small packages, the team is of the view they can always be a little bit better. Billed as the world's smallest FPV drone, it's newest entry to the micro drone market is capable of live-streaming vision from the aircraft to the pilot's mobile device.
DARPA has revealed more details of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (Tern) program that aims to turn smaller US Navy ships into miniature aircraft carriers for Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV). Phase 3 of program to develop a tail-sitting flying wing designed to take off and land vertically from destroyers and other small ships was awarded to Northrop Grumman, which will build a full-scale demonstrator for sea trials.