CRACUNS Drone Able to Deploy from Underwater Station Developed

Drones may be beginning to fill the skies and seas for a number of purposes, but what if a drone could lurk beneath the surface, just waiting to be deployed on an aerial operation? A drone developed by John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab can do just such a thing, able to remain submerged for months prior to launch. When launched, the drone then ‘swims’ to the surface of the water and takes to the air just like any other quadcopter drone.

Named the Corrosion Resistant Aerial Covert Unmanned Nautical System or CRACUNS, this drone is created using cutting edge techniques such as those employed by 3D printing. This construction gives it a composite airframe with which it is able to survive the water movement and pressure of remaining underwater for long periods of time. The sensitive components of the drone that would be destroyed by water are contained within a dry pressure compartment and any exposed components have had commercially available waterproof coatings applied to them. So far, these techniques have held up, with a CRACUNS drone being kept in sea water for two months with no sign of damage or operational issues.

CRACUNS also contains no metal components, to remove susceptibility to rusting as well as managing to be lightweight and low-cost. Altogether, this makes CRACUNS an attractive proposal for researchers and government agencies as the drone is able to operate in areas that were impossible for drones in the past. Large numbers of the drones could also be employed at any one time, either to cover a larger area or in case some units were to be lost. Whether drones like CRACUNS become more commonplace remains to be seen, but the techniques used in its design and construction show that there is still room for the development of groundbreaking new methods for fabricating machines.

US Drones Experience Spike in Unexplained Crashes

20 US military drones inexplicably crashed during 2015, and the Pentagon refuses to say why, The Washington Post reports. Half of the unmanned aerial vehicles involved are the US’s new Reaper drone, which cost $14 million (£9.8 million) each. The other 10 accidents involved the older Predator drone.

Unconfirmed rumours suggest that the Reaper could be experiencing problems with its starter generator, since that problem was detected after six crashes prior to 2014. “We’re looking closely at that to determine what is the core issue there,” Lt. Gen. Robert P. Otto, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Surveillance Programs for the US Air Force, acknowledged.

“Once the battery’s gone, the airplane goes stupid and you lose it,” Colonel Brandon Baker, Chief of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Capabilities Division, added. “Quite frankly, we don’t have the root cause ironed out just yet.”

The Pentagon has not confirmed nor denied that the starter generator is responsible for the spike in drone crashes last year, refusing to comment on the matter and failing to officially report many of the 20 crashes in 2015. Despite this, it is known that military engineers have been desperately investigating a potential fix for the problem for over a year, with rumours that every military UAV in operation will require upgraded starter generators.

Selex Develops Falcon Shield Anti-Drone System

Despite the rise of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), from hobbyist to commercial and military, in the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has so far failed to properly regulate the use of drones, famously culminating in a small UAV crashing on the White House lawn. In the absence of proper legislation, an Italian firm has developed a counter-drone system. Selex has built Falcon Shield, which combines radar, cameras, and microphones to detect, track, and even attack drones that attempt to infiltrate the system’s airspace.

“Falcon Shield makes use of Selex ES’s high-performance, passive electro-optical and electronic surveillance sensors, combined with scenario specific radar,” according to the company website. “These provide a fully integrated threat detection, identification and tracking capability which enables Falcon Shield to operate in environments that range from wide area through to high-clutter, ‘urban canyons.'”

The system even includes a remote override option, which allows the system to take over control of an errant UAV. “Incorporated within the Falcon Shield system is Selex ES’s unique electronic attack capability that provides users with the ability to disrupt or take control of the threat,” the company claims.

Falcon Shield is intended for use in private areas, such as football stadia, military bases, campuses, or private estates.

Selex plans to demonstrate its anti-drone shield, and other products, at a joint US-UK exercise due to take place in the UK in April.

FLARES – A New Drone Launch and Retrieval System

Just like a full-sized aeroplane, landing a fixed wing drone is no easy feat, made even more difficult under poor ground conditions and lack of space. Most drone makers accept this issue by designing their drones to handle light crash landings. Sometimes this just isn’t reasonable, be it due to the risk of damage to the drone or space limitations such as on warships. Boeing subsidiary Insitu has an answer to this problem, the Flying Launch and Recovery System, or FLARES for short.

FLARES, at least in appearance is incredibly straightforward. The drone to be launched is attached to the underside of the craft by the ground crew. It then carries the attached drone up into the air. Once at a sufficient altitude, the attached drone revs its engines up to speed and then detaches from the FLARES craft. The quadcopter then returns to the ground crew, where it can be fitted with a skyhook. Once back in the air, the drone snags onto the skyhook hanging from the quadcopter, arresting its momentum similarly to landing on an aircraft carrier. The ground crew can then safely reel in the drone using the skyhook pulley on the ground.

So far, the main craft used to test FLARES has been a lightweight version of the ScanEagle UAV, proving the system currently able to catch a craft of around 40 pounds in weight. And the tests that have been run so far only used existing commercial stock, which means there could be plenty of advancements with more specialist hardware, allowing the system to be used with larger and heavier drones.  The system is still in its infancy too, with the tests demonstrating the system being the first time the system has been trialed, the success of which appear to be quite remarkable. When fully realized, FLARES could allow the development and deployment of more advanced fixed wing drones, with far less concern for handling almost inevitable crashing or the site from which it operates.

US Army Tests New Drone Swarm

The latest drone test exercise run by the US Army was different to most, in that instead of showcasing a brand new multi-million-dollar aircraft, it instead used a swarm of standard off-the-shelf consumer drones.

The objects of these exercises were twofold. Firstly, deploying the drones as a swarm to simulate a threat and later testing the possibility of utilizing the same cheap swarms in military operations. This would allow the US Army to adapt to the potential threats of consumer drones when used against their forces and develop countermeasures against these tactics.

The exercises included a combat simulation with a swarm of drones supporting the opposing forces, who used them to spot enemy defensive positions, allowing their forces to gain a tactical advantage against them. Another test was flooding the airspace with drones, disrupting radar with dozens of small airborne objects.

Individually, a single consumer drone is no match for any one of the combat drones used by the US Army in it’s current operations, being far more vulnerable to both gunfire and jamming. However, with costs of up to 100-times less than this specialist hardware, it becomes far more feasible to deploy large numbers, as well as allowing them to be more disposable. Shooting down one small drone is easy. Shooting down one hundred is far less achievable. And with the potential for these consumer drones to be customized relatively cheaply with longer range equipment, night-vision and similar sensors and even weaponry, consumer drones seem to be gaining a place in modern warfare.

Can you imagine the toys you see on shelves everywhere now, being deployed in war, and will this change the face of the low-cost drone market? Only time will tell.

Anti-Drone Rifle Disables UAVs Up to 400 Metres Away

Drones are one of the latest areas of technology that the public has widely accepted. Ranging from their use at filming sports events from different angles to being used for racing, weapons and more, they are certainly adaptable and dangerous. Two months ago it was revealed that most drones could be disabled with the right sound waves. Now it would seem that a company has taken this idea and created a public sector, anti-drone weapon.

Meet the DroneDefender. Created by Battelle and weighing approximately ten pounds the device is designed to help disable UAV’s and other remote controlled aerial craft from up to 400 metres away. While the military has been keen to develop anti-drone defences, this is the first time that a company has created something for use by the general public for drone defence.

By firing an array of radio waves, specifically tuned to GPS and ISM frequencies the drone is not only disabled but it can’t receive any future commands from its operator. With the possibilities being endless for its deployment, from sports events and public gatherings to buildings like the White house or Parliment.

With drones becoming an everyday purchase, with you being able to walk down to your local shop and grab one or order several different models straight from the web. Being able to stop them when they are clearly being misused is an idea many are welcoming.

Thank you Engadget for the information and image.

China Bans Supercomputer and UAV Exports Based on National Security Concerns

The Chinese superpower seems to be a bit concerned about its latest tech getting into the wrong hands and has banned the export of unlicensed supercomputers and some UAV models.

The ban seems to forbid any company attempting to export machines capable of outputting eight TFlops of data or more than 2 Gbps of network bandwidth. Taking a look at the Top 500 list of supercomputers, we see China’s Tianhe-2 at the top of it, while the US occupies the 2nd and 3rd place.

The UAV ban comes from news about an Indian drone being shot down in Pakistan, suspected of using Chinese tech. Pakistan has close ties with the US and we all know how the US is keen on getting their hands on Chinese technology, so the word regarding the drone seems to have freaked out some high-ranking officers enough to ban UAV exports from China too.

However, the UAV ban seems to affect only aircraft capable of flying for more than an hour or reaching altitudes of 50,000 feet, so there aren’t many UAVs boasting those kind of specs outside of military use.

There has been no official reason for the ban in question, but speculations point to the ban as a result of the US blocking Intel’s export of high-end x86 chips to China. The race for who has the best tech has been noticed between the US and China for ages now, but signs like this just keep on cropping up. So where is all of this heading? It could be anyone’s guess, but we like to hear your own!

Thank you The Register for providing us with this information

Drone Seized over Sporting Event Again!

As drones are becoming cheaper and more commercially available, owners are getting more experimental with what they could fly over and potentially record. Earlier this year police arrested a pilot for attempting to film a Premier League football match and now another drone operator has been arrested for flying over matches being held for the Wimbledon Tennis event.

The operator was operating the drone over the All England Lawn Tennis Club on Saturday morning and the Metropolitan Police found the pilot on a nearby golf course. As you would expect, the drone was immediately seized and pilot arrested.

Under rules set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), you must have direct line of sight of your drone at all times and if the drone has a built-in camera; you must also avoid people, vehicles and buildings by at least 50 metres, unless you own the vehicle or building of course.

It’s unclear whether the drone was seized due to possible recording of a tennis game, being too close to people or the tennis club itself. “Anyone intending to fly a drone should give prior consideration to the surrounding landscape and any structures or venues,” inspector Roger Robinson said. “While it is not our intention to prevent people from enjoying the use of drones, it is important that regulations are adhered to.”

UAVs have already been banned from the eight Royal Parks in London, so maybe sporting venues will soon be added to the list.

Do you own a drone, would you try to fly over events like this? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to engadget for providing us with this information.

US Military Catches up With the UK with Drones

Drones! These really expensive remote controlled annoyances are huge. If you don’t own one, you will have probably seen one or at least heard of them. This story comes to us from the US military; they have adopted a new drone to use in the strive for ultra covert operations where stealth is key.

Gone are the days of using a remote controlled car, now drones have taken a key place. Not only are they incredibly maneuverable, but they can also be very small. When we think of drones, quadcopters immediately come to mind; while this is the standard for consumer use, drones can pretty much be any shape or size as long as they don’t require a human occupant.

The drone in question is the Black Hornet Nano, or PD-100 UAV if you want to get technical. This miniature drone resembles one of those cheap $15 helicopters you can buy from a market that crashes after about 15 seconds. The key difference between the Nano and the cheap version is about $39,985, yes this costs around $40,000; so it better fly well. It measures in as just 4×1 inches and weighs just 0.04lbs; in with that you also get regular AND thermal cameras, perfect for a night flight.

“According to Defense One, the US Army has “a handful” of these drones in its possession, which it began testing back in March. That said, the tiny, $40,000 Black Hornet Nano has been part of the British military’s arsenal since 2013, so the US is a slightly behind on adopting the device.”

This reminds me of that little surveillance transformer from Transformers 2, where Shia crushes it in his fingers. What are your thoughts on drones getting smaller like this? Good or bad? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you engadget for providing us with this information.


FAA Signs off on AIG Using Drones for Insurance Inspections

The Federal Aviation Administration gave the go ahead to AIG this week to use UAVs for tasks that may be too risky for people to actually do. The FAA also gave permission to State Farm and USAA insurance companies to use the UAVs as well.

The UAVs can help to quickly and efficiently do inspections of property that the company may be assessing, as well as after a disaster.  The UAV could inspect a precarious roof much faster and safer than having someone climb up onto it to do the assessment. This move will almost certainly help the companies cut costs as well, which hopefully would mean less costs in premiums down the road.

Source: Engadget

Watch: The Millennium Falcon Drone

Drones come in all shapes and sizes these days, but we’ve never seen one quite like this.

Olivier-FR designed this drone to resemble everyone’s favourite spacecraft – the Millennium Falcon. The drone is probably as close as you could get in controlling your own Millennium Falcon, and you can too – the creator of this novelty UAV has created a complete guide to building your own.

Watch it in flight bellow and see how to build one for yourself right here.

Source: The Next Web

DJI to Disable Drones Over Washington, DC After Incident

DJI will disable its drones over Washington, DC after an earlier incident which involved one of its Phantom drones crashing on the White House lawn.

The Chinese company told The Wall Street Journal that they will be using their GPS tracking system to remotely disable their drones from flying in the city. The company says that they have already utilised this capability to prevent flight near airports, but this will be the first time they have used it in a city. According to The Verge, the FAA already has a restriction on flight in the Washington, DC area, so such a restriction could have been implemented regardless of the recent incident.

It was on Monday that a DJI Phantom drone crashed on the lawn of the White House, an incident that was traced back to a (former?) government official who was flying the drone for “recreational purposes” at 3am (we’re as confused as you are).

Source: The Verge

How to Make Your Own Racing Drone

Popular tech-centric YouTube channel ‘Tested’ has produced a handy guide to producing your own racing drone.

Racing quadcopters have been the subject of a number of enthralling YouTube videos, showing packs of drones whizzing past trees at ridiculous speeds with inches to spare. Just take a look at this one:

Now take a look at the tutorial to learn how to make your own:

Source: Gizmodo

FAA Proposes Restrictive Drone Regulation

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing incredibly restrictve drone regulation.

The most frightening news for drone pilots, is the possibility of the FAA making it mandatory for operators to have hours of manned flight experience and a pilot license. They’re also reportedly proposing to limit drone flights to daylight hours.

The restrictions would mostly be aimed at commercial operators, causing major issues for companies like Amazon, who planned to introduce a drone delivery service called Prime Air.

It’s not clear how the restrictions would affect private pilots and hobbyists, but the news of such restrictive legislation will no doubt make amateur pilots fearful for their future.

Source: MarketWatch

Video Shows UAV Communicating with UGV to Land Autonomously

Robohub has an ongoing effort to make the latest papers in robotics accessible to the general audience. Striking once again on that subject, they have shown us a video of an unmanned Areal Vehicle (UAV) communicating via decentralized control for safe landing on a moving unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV).

Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles can be both safe and manoeuvrable, but their small size means they can’t carry much payload and their battery life will only allow for short flights. To increase the range of a small UAV, one idea is to pair it with an unmanned ground vehicle that can carry it to a site of operation and transport heavier cargo. Having both ground and aerial perspectives can also be useful during a mission.

One challenge is to make sure the vehicles have the ability to rendezvous and perform coordinated landings autonomously. To this end, a paper by Daly et al. in Autonomous Robots presents a coordinated control method and experimental results for landing a quad-rotor on a ground rover.

The two robots communicate their positions, converge to a common docking location and the dock successfully, both indoors and out.


In the video above the use of a coordinated control strategy for autonomous docking of a Aeryon Scout UAV onto a skid-steer UGV from Clearpath Robotics is demonstrated. The controller handles the non-linearities inherent in the motions of the two vehicles, and is stable in the face of multi-second time delays, allowing unreliable Wi-Fi communication to be used in the landing. Both indoor and outdoor experiments demonstrate the validity of the approach, and also reveal the major disturbance caused by the ground effect when hovering over the ground vehicle.

UK Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Reaper Fleet in Afghanistan Increases

The UK Ministry of Defence recently confirmed the addition of five new MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), used for reconnaissance and combat operations.

The 10 Reaper UAVs are flying from the Kandahar airfield with a focus on supporting the International Security Assistance Force.  Despite combat operations ending at the end of the year, the Reapers will continue to utilize intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) in support of the Afghan government.

Here is what the MoD said in a statement:

“These aircraft provide real-time, life-saving video to ground commanders, which will continue to be vital to allied efforts to secure internal security in Afghanistan as we draw down allied forces from the country this year.”

In a statement, Philip Dunne, UK minister for defence equipment, support and technology noted:

“These new aircraft give the RAF enhanced force protection capability in support of UK, ISAF and Afghan troops.  As we focus on the drawdown of UK forces from Afghanistan, the ability to provide force protection will become increasingly important, and [the] Reaper allows us to provide this assurance remotely and without significant ground presence.”

The British Army has 450 Hermes UAVs already serving in Afghanistan, which has seen an increase in unmanned aircraft patrolling the skies.

The United States government garners criticism for its use of UAV drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the RAF has utilized its smaller fleet more for reconnaissance and support.

Thank you to Flight Global for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Defence Industry Daily

UPS Now Delivering $400,000 Drones

Ever fancied having your very own UAV to spy on those pesky neighbours or the psychotic other half that has been stalking you for the last 6 months? Well fear not as it appears UPS are delivering drones to your door – even if it’s not yours. OK so this is a one-off occurrence (at least we hope it is) as Reddit user Seventy_Seven took to the Internet to show the $400,000 delivery that UPS left him with, even though he didn’t order it and it’s not even his!

According to Gizmodo and Reddit where the new ‘owner’ posted his surprise, the drone had been in storage for quite some time and even though he contacted UPS to imform them that some huge mistake had been made, they were happy enough for him to keep hold of it.

OP here, just called UPS. They told me that it was one of the undelivered packages in their office, and asked if I’ve ever had an undelivered package. I said no, but he insisted that it was mine, and said that it was up to me if I want to keep it or not.

Even though he did get this rather expensive delivery, the contents of this package are not a whole lot of use to him as the is a second box needed to make up the drone. Reddit users have been quick to respond to the users original post telling him that keeping hold of the drone is a Federal Offence and whilst I can see where they are coming from, the OP’s following statement does show that he is content on getting the matter sorted out and the delivery sent back to its rightful owner at the NOAA.

For all of those saying things along the lines of “It’s a federal offence to open someone else’s mail,” I should mention that the label on the exterior was addressed to me. Nothing on the outside of the crate said it was government property. I had ordered a weightlifting bench (which I received) and this came with it. Both boxes had UPS labels with my name and address. Though an odd box, I genuinely thought it was parts for the bench I ordered, since I wasn’t expecting a freaking drone.

Once complete and ready for flight, the PUMA drone has a range of 22km and around 2 hours of flight from a single charge of the batteries. Encased within the drone is a gyro stabilised high-definition thermal camera and is controlled from a remote console that is described as being similar to a WiiU remote.

Mistake or not this is high up on the fail list that we have from various couriers and fortunately it did fall into the hands of someone who understood what it was. Although the drone is not complete and would require a second case with additional parts to build, should it have fallen into the wrong hands then the possibilities of consequences may have been much different.

Source: Gizmodo