3D Robotics (3DR) has unveiled a free and open-source drone app development platform. DroneKit is the company’s API for drone app development, designed to provide a platform for developers to create Web-based drone apps. DroneKit allows developers to:

• Fly paths with waypoints
• Fly in a spline path with fine-grained control over vehicle velocity and position
• Have the drone follow a GPS target
• Control the camera and gimbal with regions of interest points
• Access full telemetry from the drone over 3DR Radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or over the Internet
• View playbacks and log analysis of any mission

DroneKit works on planes, copters, rovers, laptops, computers and mobile devices, and it provides Web-based access to vehicle data. 3DR will continue to maintain the drone development platform, fix problems that arise and ensure it works with any vehicle powered by the APM flight code. Now that’s cool!

*Photo courtesy of 3D Robotics.

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One of my favorite tech pubs today, Ars Technica released a scathing story about the FBI and the ATF spending $21 million dollars on UAVs that either don’t work, aren’t suitable for the job or are grounded because of lack of trained pilots to make these valuable tools operational.

According to the story, it was first noted by Emptywheel, a government and national security blog, the DOJ OIG report … states that the FBI spent $3 million on 34 drones “and associated control stations.” But for some reason, only half of those drones are considered operational.

Additionally the story says “ATF officials reported that ATF never flew its UAS in support its operations because [Technical Operations Branch] testing and pilot training revealed a series of technological limitations with the UAS models it had acquired. In particular, ATF determined the real-time battery capability for one UAS model lasted for only about 20 minutes even though the manufacturer specified its flight time was 45 minutes. ATF determined that the other two models of UAS acquired also were unreliable or unsuitable for surveillance. One UAS program manager told us ATF found that one of its smaller UAS models, which cost nearly $90,000, was too difficult to use reliably in operations. Furthermore, the TOB discovered that a gas-powered UAS model, which cost approximately $315,000 and was specified to fly for up to 2 hours, was never operable due to multiple technical defects.”

The United State continues to fall behind the rest of the world as the FAA slowly releases restrictions on UAVs and we show our lack of understanding of the benefit that unmanned systems can provide in anything form law enforcement, search and rescue, surveillance, crop analysis and dozens of other applications that can assist both law enforcement and government agencies.
It’s time to get a strategic plan together. The basics: Who, what, when, where, why and how.

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Cockroach drone 5

The Cal Alumni Association at UC Berkley recently featured some really cool robotic work being tested at UC Berkeley professor Ronald Fearing’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab. Leveraging what works in nature, graduate students draw inspiration from animals to design robots that are agile, durable, and versatile. Each robot has unique skills and abilities, from climbing like bugs to flying like birds.

Observing how insects and birds can go places where humans can’t, these students are designing these ingenious devices to assist in such instances as disaster areas and search and rescue.  Nature has perfected the design of its own creatures so why not leverage all of the millions of years of that design work? See more on what’s going on at the lab here.

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Since our debut at AUVSI 2013, Techaya has undergone enormous growth and success. As unmanned vehicle continue to gain acceptance as premier technical weapons from both in the air and on the ground, so do the applications that drive the need for Ethernet LANs on these vehicles. Whether you are connecting, computers, video cameras, storage devices or communications, Ethernet will drive the connection of these devices.

Join us at AUVSI in Atlanta George from May 5-7, 2015. To register, use the registration widget to the right. At MilSource, we have a limited number of free one day passes available until April 17, 2015. If you would like a free one day pass, contact us using our site contact form and include a message that you would like to get the pass. We’ll register for you and you’ll receive a confirmation directly from AUVSI.

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We just discovered that March 14, 2015 is a celebration of geeks everywhere. Not only is it Pi Day, but it is International Drone Day!

Pi Day is celebrated across the world in celebration of mathematics.  Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

But now we have another important celebration.  It’s International Drone Day. Over 150 events are going in nearly every part of the world to show that world that Drones are good. Chances are there is an event near you. To find an event in your area, you can click here to see where your local “Drones are Good” team is holding their event.

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This week the FAA finally issued its first in a series of proposed frameworks for regulations that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). From reading all of the articles, it looks like this a basic proposal that gives some safety guidelines while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations. According to the FAA, the public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found at www.regulations.gov.
These proposed rules are strictly for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations and just cover the guideline for safe operation of the UAS. Here are some highlights:

  • The rule would limit flights to daylight and line-of site operation only.
  • An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months.
  • A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
  • The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
  • A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.
  • A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight. Flights should be limited to 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
  • Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).
  • Maintains the existing prohibition against operating in a careless or reckless manner.
  • Operator are barred from allowing any object to be dropped from the UAS.

This is a good first step in FAA regulations that are desperately needed so that the US UAS industry as a whole can continue with innovation and testing. We’re looking forward to the next set of ruling that address commercial and other non-military/law enforcement applications.

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This week, Techaya, developer and manufacturer of military-grade, COTS and customized IP-based communication solutions, introduced its new MILTECH M64 military-grade, IP68-rated, miniature USB3 device. This new, novel USB solution from Techaya that takes rugged portability and security of your data to the next level.

A logical supplement to its complete line of rugged military-grade USB and Ethernet hubs and switches, the M64, has its rightful place in assisting field personnel to securely upload or download data for communications, navigation, and computing applications on vetronic, avionic, shipboard and defense systems. The M64 can transfer sensitive mission data, with a read speed 140 MBPS using USB 3 and a write speed of 90 MBPS, when there are wireless network security concerns, single-use data uploads, transferring video or other reconnaissance data, hard-drive backups and more.

With security at top-of-mind for any type of military data transfer, the M64 comes standard with Secure Erase via an external general purpose input/output (GPIO). Secure Erase is used as a data sanitization method to completely overwrite all of the data on a flash drive. Once a flash drive has been erased with a program that uses Secure Erase commands, no file recovery program, partition recovery program, or other data recovery method can extract data from the drive. An optional internal battery is available to support self-powered Secure Erase operation.

Like all Techaya products, the M64 is built from the ground up with rugged in mind. Meeting MIL-STD-810F airborne and ground environmental compliance, it can withstand harsh environments, where traditional portable storage devices (USB sticks) won’t stand up to heat, vibration and other environment elements in traditional military deployments. For example, the unique scoop-proof design prevents pins from being bent or contacts from being electrically shorted during mating — a key hazard in these rugged environments. Blind insert capability uses polarity to help guide insertion in places not easily viewed such as under dashboards or tight confines.

These cool little devices have applications for soldier carry, base stations, ground vehicles, missiles and other airborne vehicles. Check out more the on the MILTECH M64 here.

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Power over Ethernet or PoE, allows a single cable to provide both data connection and electrical power to networked pieces of equipment such as sensors, IP video cameras and even wireless mesh nodes. PoE works across standard network cabling (i.e. CAT5) to supply power directly from the data ports to which networked devices are connected.

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A couple of months ago, we wrote about naval experiments with “sense and avoid” technology . The point behind the article was that “sense and avoid” technology is one of the gaiting factors behind the FAA approving widespread use and application of unmanned aircraft. The FAA regulations clearly state that sense and avoidance would be the sole responsibility of the unmanned aircraft when sharing airspace with manned aircraft.

Here’s some promising news on that front. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI), recently announced two key technological advances related to its ongoing Sense and Avoid (SAA) system development efforts.

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It’s been a popular month for stories about drones used for awesome search and rescue operations. We’ve all had vague concepts of what drones can do for some of these in the name of rescue, but now we are seeing some tangible applications. From lifeguards to heart attack assistance to wildfires, here’s a list of really interesting drone applications that can, unquestionably save lives.

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