Here’s a roundup of the week’s top drone news, designed to capture the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft.
Coal Ash Spill Estimated
On February 2nd, a Duke Energy coal ash dump in Eden, N.C., ruptured. A large amount of coal ash spilled over into the Dan River. How much exactly? Thanks to researchers from Wake Forest University, we have an answer: 35 million gallons, or about 53 full Olympic-sized swimming pools. The team flew a drone over the ash dump that ruptured, and used footage from that flight to create a 3-D model of the dump, and from there calculate total volume spilled. Turns out the rupture at Eden is the third-largest coal ash spill in American history.
Here’s a video of the 3-D model made using that drone footage.
Drone Law Advances In Utah
A proposed law governing drones just moved from committee to the full Utah senate for consideration. SB 167 forbids law enforcement, in almost all situations, from using data collected by drones unless it was obtained under a warrant. In addition, strict data requirements would prohibit police using data collected from one case in another, and would require that irrelevant stored data be deleted as soon as possible. This bill is similar to another strict drone regulation under debate in Hawaii, with one major exception: in Utah, these rules only apply to police, whereas in Hawaii, the rules for non-police drone use would be even stricter.
Barcelona From Above
Drones are a cheap way to get really cool aerial footage. The below video captures a lovely view of the tops of Barcelona’s skyline. The drone used comes from HEMAV, a Barcelona-based startup. A 5:40, a delighted elderly couple waves to the drone outside their window. “Hi! This is the future! What you once knew as privacy is gone and never coming back!,” the drone seems to reply.
Pentagon Plans A Robotic Future
Drones won big in the latest proposed budget from the Department of Defense. Global Hawks, a long-lasting and high-flying drone, gained funding over U-2 spyplanes, an aircraft that has been in service since the early Cold War.
Drone From The Past
This illustration of radio-controlled planes was first published in 1924 in The Experimenter magazine, and then published again in 1931 because the author felt its vision of radio-controlled planes was super prescient. The article even goes on to speculate about drone bombers, imagining a future of war where airplanes fight but pilots don’t get shot down. Paleofuture has more.
Netflix Mocks Gimmick Drones
Delivery by drone has, with a few exceptions, failed to move from cool idea to reality. In December, Amazon announced a drone delivery service set for… some indefinite point in the future. In January, Lakemaid Beer showed off a drone delivering brews to ice fishers, but the video over-promised and then the FAA shut them down. This week Netflix, seizing on the popularity of drone delivery, released a video much like the others: users order by smartphone, drones pick up the product and then drop it off as close to customer as possible, even if it’s through a sunroof while the person is driving. And things get worse from there.
The drone used is a real DJI Phantom. The explosions are not a standard feature. Watch the gimmick-mocking gimmick video below:
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