Army Blows Drones Out of the Sky with a Laser!

Recently conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria have clearly shown the danger that small drones (UAVs) can pose to military units on the ground. To adapt to this threat the US Army has been testing a Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle that has been refitted with a laser and electronic countermeasures that can track and disable drones.

High-tech cameras and jamming devices can detect drones, track them and even disable them. If for some reason the drones still keep on coming the Stryker is equipped with a Mobile High Energy Laser (MEHEL) that lets it blast the drones out of the sky. In two test sessions the laser-equipped Stryker was able to successfully blast over 50 drones out of the sky—a number beyond what was expected. Besides shooting down drones, the army also plans to use the laser to blow through defenses and even stop incoming rockets and artillery shells.

While there are more cost effective anti-drone technologies, the Stryker’s ability to identify, track and disable a drone with a single platform could make it a useful tool to protect soldiers from the threat of drone strikes.

Navy Drone Take Important Step Towards Autonomous Operations

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The Navy plans to put its new MQ-4C Triton long-range patrol drone into service sometime next year. The drone is based off the same design as the Global Hawk, but new software upgrades give it the ability for enhanced autonomous operations.

The Triton will come with a Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) which will allow its operator to identify and avoid other aircraft independent of any other air traffic control data. The new software upgrade will also allow a single drone operator to control multiple drones at the same time.

The Navy has successfully tested the new software and while it does not make Triton drones completely autonomous, it’s an important step towards fully autonomous flight. Given criticisms of its drone programs the various military branches are taking a cautions approach towards introducing autonomous operational ability for their drone fleets.

Given a robust TCAS, it’s possible that the Triton drone will be allowed to operate in same airspace as civil aircraft traffic—something the Global Hawk cannot do. Whether for civil or military application, the end game for TCAS, or sense and avoid systems like it, is for drones to operate by themselves. So keep an eye out for further software upgrades for the Triton if you are interested in how the military is moving forward with this technology.

New Drone Laws

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According to Bard College (who is keeping a running total of local drone laws) there are now over 130 local laws in place for drones across the nation. Almost every week there is a new law being proposed or a new law being enacted.

The most recent major drone regulation to go into effect is in San Diego. Due to its natural beauty, beaches and other tourist attractions San Diego has been a hot spot for drone activity and local authorities thought it was best to regulate drones use for safety issues. San Diego took a common sense approach and basically took existing FAA regulations on drones and made them part municipal code so police can fully enforce them.

This is in contrast to cities like Orlando, Florida that are adding extra lawyers of control to existing FAA regulations. For instance, even though the FAA has an official drone registry, the city of Orlando requires those who want to operate inside of its city limits to pay a fee and register with the city.

Then there is a proposed law from Toms River, New Jersey which would effectively ban drone flight below 400 feet. The city says it is doing this to limit aggressive real estate agents who have been using drone video to show off properties. The city also says it would still allow drone flight, but there needs to be consent from the owners of the property that is flown over. The real questions here is does Toms River even have the authority to ban flight below 400 feet?

UK Launches Special Drone Squad to Crack Down on Prison Smuggling

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In both the US and the UK drones are an increasingly popular way for criminals to smuggle contraband into prisons. You don’t have to stuff Ziplock bags in unmentionable places, you don’t have to bribe guards—all you have to do is buy a drone and tape drugs and cell phones to it.

Every year in the UK prison officials are seeing an increase in smuggling via drones and now they are doing something about it. Earlier this week Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah announced that the UK was creating a special drone squad (consisting of both normal police and prison police) to address the problem head-on.

Gyimah told the press, “The threat posed by drones is clear, but our dedicated staff are committed to winning the fight against those who are attempting to thwart progress by wreaking havoc in establishments all over the country.”

According to UK government figures there were 33 cases of drone smuggling into prisons in 2015 and an unreleased “large increase” in 2016. The new special drone squad will work with various law enforcement agencies in the UK to try to reverse the expansion of drone smuggling.

It is our guess that although this new squad will give it their best, they probably don’t have that much experience with drones. And even if they do, there are easier ways to secure locations from illegal drones use. They could use geofencing or hire the services of experts like Dedrone.

Can a Drone Help you Get a Tinder Date? Yes, yes it can!

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The varying uses for drones are growing everyday. Now you can add securing a date. Abhimanyu Ghoshal, a tech blogger from India recently got a date on Tinder with the help of a drone.

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Ghoshal was quite proud of his achievement. According to his blog post, he suggest to his potential date that they build a Flybix drone kit together and then test it out. The Flybix is a easy to put together kit with basic electronics and a variety of Lego block that snap together to form the body of the mini-drone.

OK now we have heard it all! I guess if drones are being used to score dates on Tender that means they are getting mainstream?

Surprise! Drone Sales Double

A new report from the NPD Group reveals that drone sales more than doubled (up 117% to be exact) from February 2016 to February 2017. That’s a big jump, clearly showing the strength of consumers drones in the market. These sales numbers include the a wide variety of drones from $50 mini-drones (which are really just toys) to the $3,000 DJI Inspire 2.

Here are some useful tidbits from the NPD report:

  • During the holiday season drones with a price tag between $50- $100 saw a significant uptick in sales.
  • For drones in the $300-$500 price range, there is a clear consumer demand for premium features.
    • Drones with auto pilot capabilities sold nearly five times more quickly.
    • Drones that feature follow mode functionality sold 19x more quickly.
  • During the first two months of 2017…
    • Drones with a price tag over $300 drove 84% of dollar sales and nearly 40% of unit sales.
    • Drones sold for $1,000+ saw the highest rate of sales.

In roughly the same time period from January 2016 to January 2017 the number of drones registered with the FAA when up by 123%. And according to the numbers in the last two months over 100,000 more drones have been registered with the FAA.