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This one department of U.S. government is really excited about how it is using drones

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Drones and the government have a complicated relationship in terms of use and regulation.

But there’s one government department that is thrilled with drones: the Department of the Interior.

The Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Aviation Services, which has a fleet of 312 drones, flew nearly 5,000 missions in 2017. Those flights were carried out across 32 states and by 200 different pilots. According to the DOI, their fleet includes drones such as the 3DR Solo Quadcopters and Pulse Vapor 55TM Helicopters, made by Pulse Aerospace.

“The Department of the Interior has worked hard to build a UAS program that is a leader in non-Department of Defense applications,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Safety, Resource Protection, and Emergency Services Harry Humbert in a prepared statement. “This technology opens limitless possibilities for resource managers. The Department is proud of the collaboration that uses technology to support wildland fire and natural resource management more safely and more efficiently than ever before.”

Drones flew a range of missions, including fighting wildfires, monitoring dams and spillways, and mapping wildlife.

The DOI shared an exact breakdown of the types of drone flights and in which states they were located:

One of the biggest areas where drones were used was in wildfire suppression. 707 drone missions were carried out across 71 individual wildfires throughout 2017. That’s an 82% increase in drone usage from 2016.

But the DOI has been using drones for much longer than that. The DOI’s drone program launched in 2010 — long before the days of the DJI Phantom. In 2010, the drones flew just 208 flights.

The DOI has stated that using drones is cheaper and more efficient that using humans or manned aircraft to carry out the same tasks.

“Aviation accidents have been the leading cause of fatalities among field biologists,” Mark Bathrick, Director of the Office of Aviation Services said in a prepared statement. “Increasing the use of UAS or drones can increase safety for certain missions. Drones can also instantly deliver high quality data for a fraction of the cost of traditional flights.”

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This one department of U.S. government is really excited about how it is using drones was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/03/01/department-of-interior-drones/ by Sally French

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Yuneec partners with Parrot to put Pix4D’s mapping software in its commercial drones

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As drone companies look to compete with  drone industry king DJI, two companies have come up with a unique strategy: combine resources and team up.

Yuneec, a Chinese drone manufacturer known mostly for its Typhoon hobby drone, has partnered with Pix4D, a 3D mapping software company owned by French drone manufacturer Parrot, which is known for its Bebop and AR toy drones.

A screengrab of the Pix4D software.

The two companies announced this week that Parrot’s  Pix4Dcapture software would now be available on Yuneec’s H520 ST16S ground station controller. The software gives users the ability to create georeferenced maps and models from drone imagery, Pix4D capture is used in verticals such as law enforcement, inspection and construction, where drone pilots can customize flight plans and parameters and view maps in multiple orientations.

The Pix4Dcapture software will now be pre-installed on all future Yuneec’s H520 ST16s ground stations and available via software update for existing H520 owners. 

Yuneec’s H520, which was announced in January 2017, is a six-rotor drone targeted at commercial applications. It looks very much like the Typhoon H drone (but is bright orange for high visibility), building off the six-rotor platform (that is capable of flying under emergency situations with just five rotors) while incorporating commercial-grade cameras and applications for high-end commercial use.

The partnership is unique as Parrot opts to extend the reach of its software into drones outside of the Parrot family. Pix4D has been integrated into Parrot’s enterprise-level drones, including the Disco-Pro and the Parrot Bluegrass. But it’s interesting to see Parrot drones appearing in drones by what is seemingly a competitor company.

Meanwhile, DJI’s attention when it comes to consumer drones is on the thermal imaging market. The Chinese drone behemoth, which has an estimated 70% share of the drone industry, recently announced a partnership with thermal camera maker FLIR to integrate its thermal cameras into its drones alongside a traditional 4K camera with the launch of the new DJI XT2 camera.

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Yuneec partners with Parrot to put Pix4D’s mapping software in its commercial drones was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/04/06/yuneec-partners-with-parrot-to-put-pix4ds-mapping-software-in-its-commercial-drones/ by Sally French

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FAA seeking more LAANC suppliers months after industry criticism about “ol’ boy’s club forming”

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The Federal Aviation Administration is seeking more applicants to participate as a supplier in its Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) drone program.

A month after announcing that it would  expand tests of its real-time approval processing program to 500 airports by the fall of this year, the FAA wants more companies to supply LAANC services.

The LAANC program allows drone operators to use an interface from one of four providers that were hand-picked by the FAA — AirMap, Project Wing (an entity of X, formerly known as Google), Rockwell Collins and Skyward — to request approval to fly in restricted airspace. Operators would then receive approval almost instantly.

That instantly speeds up the ability to legally fly in controlled airspace such as near airports — a cumbersome process that had required individual applications and took months.

While the drone industry was generally excited that the process to get permission to fly in controlled airspaces has gotten easier, many industry players feared that the FAA selecting just 4 companies to provide such a service with no clear criteria of how to get chosen was a threat to other companies, particular small startups with minimal resources.

“Getting exclusive access to what is essentially a national resource doesn’t seem like a fair gig at all,” said Joshua Ziering, founder of Kittyhawk, a drone-operations platform similar to Skyward in a past interview with The Drone Girl. “With this, the FAA is essentially picking winners in the private industry.”

Since that time, the FAA announced that it considering agreements with additional entities to provide LAANC services. The period for new entities to apply will run from April 16 to May 16. Interested parties can find information on the application process here.

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FAA seeking more LAANC suppliers months after industry criticism about “ol’ boy’s club forming” was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/04/03/faa-seeking-laanc-suppliers/ by Sally French

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China’s second-largest courier just got permission for drone delivery

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Drone delivery has arrived in China.

SF Express, a courier in China, announced that one of its subsidiaries received the first official permit to deliver packages via drones.

The courier is focused on delivering items via drones to more sparsely populated areas. The company said it intends to use a few types of drones. Traditional manned aircraft will delivery items at large scale to major warehouses, followed by big drones delivering items to local warehouses and small drones making the actual deliveries to customers.

Tests of SF Express’s drones have been spotted as early as 2013, the same year Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon was working toward drone delivery. SF Express is the second largest courier in China after China Post.

With the new government approvals, SF Express can legally make deliveries in approved airspace. But that still doesn’t mean drones will be making deliveries anywhere and everywhere just yet. The flights are still in beta mode, with SF Express launching a pilot zone in the Nankang district of Ganzhou, a city in Jiangxi province, where it had already been testing drone deliveries. After that stage, drone delivery would expand across the entire provence.

China has made huge headway in the field of drone delivery. Another company called JD.com, which has been described as the Chinese version of Amazon, has a fleet of drones making deliveries near Beijing.

JD’s heavy-load drones can carry payloads weighing more than a ton and focuses on flying along fixed routes from warehouses to special landing pads in rural villages, where local contractors for the company then deliver the packages to the customers’ doorsteps.

That model is similar to that of Iceland’s Flytrex, which flies fixed routes from warehouses to specified points across the city. From there, a human courier handles the packages between that drop-off point and the customer’s house, filling in the “last mile,” or the customer can come to the drop-off point to receive it themselves.

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China’s second-largest courier just got permission for drone delivery was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/04/02/chinas-second-largest-courier-just-got-permission-drone-delivery/ by Sally French

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