You can’t fly a drone at night. You can’t fly a drone over people. You need to be able to see it with your naked eye at all times — or have a dedicated observer who can. These rules exist to keep dumb drones (and reckless pilots) from crashing into people, property, and other aircraft in the skies.
But what happens when drones get smarter, and can dodge obstacles on their own? That’s the kind of drone that Skydio builds, and it appears to be successfully convincing the FAA to create exceptions to that naked-eye, Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) rule.
This week, the FAA granted the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) a blanket waiver to fly Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to inspect any bridge, anywhere across the state, for four whole years. They primarily need to make sure the bridge isn’t occupied by random people, and fly within 50 feet of the bridge and 1,500 feet of the drone’s pilot. You can see the full waiver here (PDF).
It’s not the first time the FAA has granted a BVLOS waiver; the agency has granted limited waivers since the first drone rules rolled out, but early waivers were often for a single flight or series of flights by a licensed pilot who’d applied months in advance. But in 2015, the FAA signaled that it wanted to enable more advanced uses of drones, particularly beyond visual line of sight, as quickly as it can — and over the past year, we’ve seen it start to happen in a bigger way.
Last October, the UPS won FAA approval to operate a “drone airline” with a Part 135 Standard certification, allowing its delivery drones to fly beyond visual line of sight. This August, Amazon’s Prime Air got the
Turkey is developing an increasing variety of lethal armed drones that range from large high-flying bomb-laden ones to very small, low-flying ones that can form deadly swarms.
In recent years, Turkey has developed an impressive local drone industry from the ground up. Armed Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 and Anka-S drones have already proven themselves in combat in operations in Syria, Iraq, and even as far afield as Libya.
Ankara is presently building a variety of bigger and smaller drones that will fulfill a multitude of different roles for the Turkish military.
For example, in September 2020, Turkey’s upcoming Aksungur drone, built by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), completed a 28-hour-long test flight carrying various weapons.
According to TAI, the turboprop Aksungur carried 12 Turkish-built MAM-L (Smart Micro Munition) guided missiles under its wings. Such a payload is much bigger than what the Bayraktar TB2 or Anka-S can carry.
MAM-L’s weigh 22 kilograms and can hit targets up to 14 kilometers away. They can also be fitted with different kinds of warheads – from high explosives to warheads specialized in penetrating tank armor. The munitions proved their worth in February-March 2020 drone campaign against Syrian ground forces in Idlib province when Turkish Bayraktar TB2s and Anka-S drones successfully used MAM-L’s against several Syrian tanks and other vehicles.
The Australian National University (ANU) and Optus announced on Thursday the pair would attempt to develop a national system to detect and extinguish fires using a mixture of satellites, drones, and robotics.
The first step of the program, which is due to run until 2024, will be to create an “autonomous ground-based and aerial fire detection system”.
It will begin with the trial of long-range infra-red sensor cameras placed on towers in fire-prone areas in the ACT, which will allow the ACT Rural Fire Service (RFS) to monitor and identify bushfires.
The long-term goal, though, is to put out fires using drones.
“We hope to develop a system that can locate a fire within the first few minutes of ignition and extinguish it soon afterwards,” ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said.
“ANU is designing and looking to build highly innovative water gliders with autopilots that will extinguish fires within minutes of them igniting.”
By 2022, it is planned that ANU will manage a constellation of satellites, as well as a geo-stationary satellite, to help with fire detection.
See also: Twitter bots and trolls promote conspiracy theories about Australian bushfires
“If we are able to improve the speed and accuracy of fire detection it ultimately means we can improve our response and better protect communities and landscapes,” ACT RFS acting chief officer Rohan Scott said.
A joint chair for bushfire research and innovation, as well as a research fund, will also be established at ANU.
Also on Thursday morning, Optus announced it would allow customers to provision eSIMs from the My Optus app without needing a physical Optus SIM at some stage.
“eSIM also eliminates the hassle of having to carry