Tag Archives: Drones

Israel's Elbit speeds up race to fly military drones in civil airspace
July 12, 2018 6:45 am|Comments (0)

REHOVOT, Israel (Reuters) – Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems on Thursday unveiled a 1.6 ton unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) designed to fly in airspace currently reserved for piloted civilian planes as a race heats up to deploy military drones outside combat zones.

Employees check an Elbit Systems Ltd. Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the company’s drone factory in Rehovot, Israel, June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Orel Cohen

The move came hours after a U.S. rival staged a landmark transatlantic demonstration flight, as arms firms vie to develop drones with flexibility to be used in civilian-controlled airspace – a drive that could spawn future technology for unmanned airliners.

Changing security concerns following the dismantling of Islamic State and rising geopolitical tensions have caused European countries to shift defense efforts from far-away conflicts to homeland security, resulting in demand for drones that can be safely integrated into civilian airspace to, for example, monitor border crossings, Elbit officials said.

A version of Elbit’s Hermes 900 StarLiner is being assembled for the Swiss armed forces and is scheduled to be delivered in 2019 in a deal worth $ 200 million.

“We are getting a lot of interest from other customers for the same configuration … from all over the world,” Elad Aharonson, general manager of Elbit’s ISTAR division, told Reuters.

The StarLiner, being launched ahead of next week’s Farnborough Airshow, is derived from the Hermes 900 operated by Brazil for surveillance during the 2014 World Cup. That operation required closing off airspace to civilian aircraft, something the StarLiner, with technology to detect aircraft and avoid collisions, will not require, Elbit said.

Elad Aharonson, general manager of the Elbit Systems Ltd. ISTAR division, stands among unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at the company’s drone factory in Rehovot, Israel, June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Orel Cohen

The drone is compliant with NATO criteria, qualifying it to be integrated into civilian airspace, Elbit said. It will still need approval of the various civil aviation authorities.

The StarLiner has been flying in civilian airspace in Israel over the past year.

California-based General Atomics’ MQ-9B SkyGuardian – a version of the widely used Predator family – completed its Atlantic crossing on Wednesday ahead of the world’s largest military airshow at RAF Fairford in western England.

Elbit expects to receive approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for its own product in the coming months.

EASA was not available for comment.

Israel’s drone exports in 2005-2012 totaled $ 4.6 billion, according to consultancy Frost & Sullivan. They reached $ 525 million in 2016, accounting for 7 percent of Israel’s defense exports, defense ministry data show.

Drones are a major source of revenue for Elbit and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. The United States and Israel dominate the industry but face growing competition from cheaper Chinese drones.

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U.S. military drone makers are vying for a larger share of the global market, which market researcher the Teal Group forecasts will rise from $ 2.8 billion in 2016 to $ 9.4 billion in 2025.

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Flying alongside airliners would expand the horizons of drones originally developed for military surveillance. But it would also call for advanced sensors and software that could eventually filter back into commercial use as developers look at single-pilot and ultimately pilotless cargo or passenger jets.

The StarLiner can reach 30,000 feet – the altitude of some commercial jets – and photograph an 80 square kilometer (31 square mile) area, Elbit said.

“Some customers would like to use the system to gather intelligence,” Elbit CEO Bezhalel Machlis said. “Another example can be for homeland security applications, to fly above an area and make sure it is monitored against terrorist activities.”

The drone can be equipped with radar, cameras to take video and still pictures, and signals intelligence to analyze electronic signals.

“This is a major step towards unmanned civilian planes,” Aharonson said, adding the main barrier to such aircraft would be psychological rather than technical.

Editing by Jonathan Weber, Tim Hepher and Mark Potter

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Smugglers Caught Using Drones to Drop $80 Million Worth of iPhones Into China
March 30, 2018 6:32 pm|Comments (0)

Chinese customs officers have arrested smugglers who attempted to drop millions of dollars worth of iPhones from drones into China.

Twenty-six suspects were arrested in China recently after they tried to use drones to fly two 660-foot cables from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, according to Reuters. Those cables were going to be used to lift iPhones worth 500 million yuan ($ 79.6 million) to the mainland, where they could be sold via the black market for a hefty profit, according to the report. A local Chinese report from the Legal Daily said it was the first time drones were employed to smuggle phones.

The operation was set to go off at night, where smugglers would pack small bags with approximately 10 iPhones and attach them to the drones. Those drones would then fly from Hong Kong to the mainland in just a matter of seconds. According to Reuters, the smugglers had the ability to transport up to 15,000 iPhones each night.

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Smuggling of high-value products—like iPhones, jewelry, and luxury products—is nothing new in China. In fact, the government has been working hard to crackdown on the practice and do a better job of breaking up what has become an increasingly powerful black market.

Smuggling gangs often steal devices or buy them at a deeply reduced rate and sell them for a higher price in China. They’re careful, however, to keep their prices below the going rate for those who purchase products legitimately. The result is a profitable business for smugglers and an opportunity for Chinese consumers to get authentic goods at a cheaper price.

Despite breaking up the drone attempt, Shenzhen officials warned that smuggling would continue. According to Reuters, the customs officers are planning to use several types of equipment to thwart other attempts by the smugglers.

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China busts smugglers using drones to transport smartphones: state media
March 30, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

BEIJING (Reuters) – Customs officers in southern China’s technology hub Shenzhen busted a group of criminals using drones to smuggle 500 million yuan ($ 79.8 million) worth of smartphones from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, the official Legal Daily reported on Friday.

Authorities arrested 26 suspects who used drones to fly two 200-meter (660-feet) cables between Hong Kong and the mainland to transport refurbished iPhones with a total value of 500 million yuan, the paper said in a report on the crackdown by Shenzhen and Hong Kong customs.

“It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes,” the Legal Daily reported, citing a news conference held by Shenzhen customs on Thursday.

The smugglers usually operated after midnight and only needed seconds to transport small bags holding more than 10 iPhones using the drones, the report quoted customs as saying. The gang could smuggle as many as 15,000 phones across the border in one night, it said.

Regulating the use of drones has become an important task for China, the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer drones.

China published strict rules last year to tackle incidents of drones straying into aircraft flight paths, including requiring owners of civilian drones to register craft up to a certain weight under their real names.

Shenzhen customs was quoted by the Legal Daily as saying it would closely monitor new types of smuggling with high-tech devices and enhance their capability with technical equipment, including drones and high-resolution monitors, to detect smuggling activity.

Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Se Young Lee; Editing by Paul Tait

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Walmart patents hint at future where its drones tend the farms
March 15, 2018 6:01 am|Comments (0)

NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Walmart Inc’s patent filings hint that it may see a future where farmers use its drones to not only spot crop problems but selectively apply chemicals or even disperse pollen to bring shoppers the freshest and cheapest food possible.

FILE PHOTO: A Walmart store is seen in Encinitas, California, U.S. on April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The world’s largest retailer applied for six patents last year on drones that aim to prevent damage to crops, control pest attacks on farms and cross-pollinate plants, according to U.S. Patents and Trademark Office documents that were made public last week and seen by Reuters.

Groceries make up 56 percent of the company’s total revenue and Walmart may see drone technology as one way to get food from farms to store shelves faster and more cheaply to compete with Amazon.com Inc, following its purchase of Whole Foods Market last year and the expansion of discount chains like Aldi and Lidl.

In one application, Walmart seeks to patent a system that would use drones to identify crop-damaging pests and then dispense insecticides on the critters. Another suggests the use of drones carrying pollen dispensers to successfully pollinate crops.

Using technology to precisely apply pesticides rather than spraying entire fields can benefit the environment and save money for farmers. As part of a sustainability push in recent years, Walmart has also worked with suppliers to reduce the amount of fertilizer used to grow crops because it can pollute the environment.

Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said the company always looks for new ways to serve shoppers better but had no comment on the filings. The retailer applies for dozens of patents a year and many do not result in commercial products.

Walmart previously applied for a patent involving drones that could monitor crops’ growing conditions and send data to stores about when and from where produce might arrive, said Zoe Leavitt, a senior analyst from data intelligence firm CB Insights, which analyzes corporate patent filings. The series of six applications indicates Walmart is looking into farming more seriously, she said.

Walmart has so far applied for 46 patents for using drone technology, mostly to facilitate its delivery and logistics operations, or for use within warehouses to do things such as track inventory, according to data from CB Insights.

In U.S. agriculture, drones are most often used to survey farms that can span hundreds of acres. The devices fly above fields and take photos that help growers estimate the size of upcoming harvests or identify problems, such as weed infestations and nutrient deficiencies.

Other industries have also turned to drones, with AT&T Inc using the devices to look at cellphone towers in Texas last year after Hurricane Harvey. Insurers such as Allstate Corp use them to assess property damage. “The technology is very powerful and using that to control the supply chain as far out as possible will offer Walmart a distinct advantage over rivals,” said Bill Bishop, co-founder of retail consultancy Brick Meets Click.

The market for agricultural drones will top $ 1 billion by 2024, up from about $ 338 million in 2016, according to research firm Global Market Insights. However, Walmart’s patent applications stand out because they indicate the company sees greater potential to address problems on farms, rather than simply spot them, said David Dvorak, chief executive officer for Field of View, a U.S. company that sells drone camera systems. “It sounds like Walmart is trying to develop a complete system that can actually do something about it,” Dvorak said.

The patent push involving agricultural technology harks back to McDonald Corp’s efforts in the 1960s to patent the processing of potatoes into French fries so it could reliably deliver consistent quality fries at the lowest cost in massive volumes.

“Companies like Walmart for a long time have created sustainability initiatives and this is really where the rubber is meeting the road,” said Jayson Lusk, head of agricultural economics at Purdue University.

Such environmental-focused initiatives can be attractive to consumers, Lusk said. Eventually Walmart, which is courting more urban, higher income and health conscious shoppers for their online grocery business, could require suppliers to buy food from farmers who use agricultural technology to reduce chemicals to produce crops, he said.

“A way how this might come down is the imposition of standards on their suppliers,” Lusk said.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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UPS is testing out its own delivery drones
November 17, 2016 2:05 pm|Comments (0)

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One of the world’s largest package delivery companies is stepping up efforts to integrate drones into its system.

UPS has partnered with robot-maker CyPhy Works to test the use of drones to make commercial deliveries to remote or difficult-to-access locations.The companies began testing the drones on Thursday, when they launched one from the seaside town of Marblehead. The drone flew on a programmed route for 3 miles over the Atlantic Ocean to deliver an inhaler at Children’s Island.

The successful landing was greeted by jubilant shouts from CyPhy Works and UPS employees on the island to witness the test.”I thought it was fantastic,” said John Dodero, UPS vice president for industrial engineering. Read more…

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Experiment proves future drones may not need batteries
October 24, 2016 7:45 am|Comments (0)


On a single charge, the average consumer drone only nets about eight to 10 minutes of flight time. The solution is obvious: stuff a bigger battery into it. Problem is, the solution adds weight, which decreases flight time. It’s the ultimate catch-22. Dr. Samer Aldhaher of the Imperial College London thinks he has the answer, kinda. Aldhaher created a prototype of a lightweight, battery-less drone that hovers in place and sucks power from a transmitter below. The drone is only capable of hovering and making small side-to-side movements, but the prototype proves the utility of wireless power technology. As drones take to the skies in record numbers, a handful…

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