Tag Archives: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

This drone attachment can save your life

Ryptide is a drone accessory that can deliver an automatically-inflating life preserver to a swimmer in trouble in seconds.

While the mere thought of drones still tends to conjure up negative images of things like spying and war, there are countless new ways that the unmanned apparatuses are being used to help improve our world, whether that’s combatiting wildlife pouching in Africa, monitoring bridge safety, transporting defibrillators, or better yet, saving you from drowning. The speed that drones can be deployed makes them ideal for delivering items in times of emergency, particularly those where every second counts.


That’s why a group of Connecticut high school students have launched a new project on Kickstarter, which can deliver life-rings to swimmers in distress by way of drones. As its name would suggest, Ryptide aspires to provide real-time aid to those who are pulled away from shore, as well as those who find themselves dangerously submerged in a frozen lake or pond. The solution consists of a small, lightweight accessory that can send an automatically-inflating life preserver to a swimmer in trouble in less than a minute. This simple mechanism can easily be attached to any drone and triggered via a RC transmitter, all while weighing less than the typical GoPro camera and gimbal commonly used by UAV operators.

The system itself was designed to carry a SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) approved life-ring approximately 24″ in diameter that uses a CO2 cartridge to instantly inflate upon contact with water. Once the drone is overhead, a button on its controller can be pressed to remotely release the life-ring. As soon as it hits the ocean, a CO2 cartridge dispenses its contents and the preserver fills with air in just five seconds. These lifelines are reusable and can be recharged using a kit available with the project.


While the basic version of the Ryptide affixes to most DJI Phantom series drones, the team has also devised a larger version of the system that is capable of carrying multiple life-rings and a small first person view (FPV) camera. The drop mechanism uses the same radio channel responsible for controlling a camera gimbal on a number of today’s most popular drones. As its creators reveal, if you fly a drone that can lug 450 grams, then you can operate one of their devices.

The more advanced models are powered by an 
Arduino Pro (ATmega328) tasked with dropping up to 
four life-rings using a single 
channel on a radio. Each press of the radio switch will drop a single ring. Additionally, Ryptide is comprised of 3D-printed parts, most notably a mounting platform that has been designed to accommodate all Phantom models. The team has included a kit that will adapt to a wider range of camera mounting systems for other drone types as well.


And when it’s not saving lives in the deep blue sea like David Hasselhoff, Ryptide can also be utilized to help rescue drones that find themselves in the water after an unintended landing. The recently-revealed system can be attached to most larger UAVs using looped webbing along with some heavy-duty zip ties that will keep them afloat should such misfortune occur.

Keep in mind, this mechanism isn’t meant to replace lifeguards altogether, but will help assist in time-sensitive missions. Ready to help them help others? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where the team is currently seeking has successfully garnered $10,000. Shipment is slated to begin in July 2015, just in time to help save lives this summer. We can’t help but wonder if the team will submit this idea as an entry in The Hackaday Prize.

Video: Pop-up Crocs store brings you shoes by drone

UAV? Try Shoe-A-V. 

It’s a good thing Al Bundy is retired because it looks like we may inching closer to a future filled with in-store sneaker-delivering drones. As to whether or not you actually wear Crocs is an entirely different story, however the shoemaker recently replaced its salespeople with a quadcopter at a Tokyo pop-up store on March 5th.


In celebration of 10 years in Japan, the company’s “Flying Norlin Project” enables shoppers to choose a pair of shoes using a touchscreen kiosk. With a press of the “take off” button, a UAV is prompted to go grab the selected item and bring it to the customer. The drone itself is equipped with clip that holds the footwear with the help of a magnet and transports it over to a waiting basket.

While not every pair made it successfully into shoppers’ baskets on the first go-around, it was pretty darn cool nevertheless. The ‘copters have been specially adapted from commercially available products for the temporary store, which is open until March 8th. Just think, you may never have to tirelessly wait for a staff member to locate and bring out a pair of sneakers from the back ever again!

This isn’t the first brand in Japan to launch a pretty impressive PR stunt using Maker-friendly technology in recent weeks. If you recall, Dole unveiled the world’s first edible wearable, while juice company Kagome built a robotic tomato dispenser for runners.

FAA releases proposed drone laws

Newly-announced FAA rules might allow thousands of business drones in the next few years. 

Following latest reports of a leaked document, the FAA has announced the regulations that will allow routine use of small drones in the United States. Before becoming finalized, the rules must go through a comment period, during which the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the rules. Those of you who may recall, back in 2012, Congress had required the FAA to create rules around the integration of small drones by 2015.


Once the order is finalized, the Washington Post shares that the FAA estimates that more than 7,000 businesses will obtain drone permits within three years. Furthermore, based on the recently-revealed document, companies would not be permitted to fly drones over long distances which would effectively preclude expedited delivery efforts ranging from pizza makers to Amazon. The rules, however, are expected to be modified and loosened over the coming decade as drone technology advances. For the time being, the long-awaited draft also limits speed to 100 miles per hour as well as altitude of flight to 500 feet above ground level.

These regulations follow in the footsteps of other countries, such as Canada and the UK, who have already made tremendous progress in devising rulings around commercial drone operation.

Meanwhile, the proposed FAA rules for small drones would not apply to people who fly drones for fun or for recreational purposes, the Washington Post adds. Small hobby drones — many of which are powered by AVR microcontrollers —  have become increasingly popular throughout the United States, thanks in part to the burgeoning Maker Movement. But, under a law passed by Congress in 2012, the FAA is largely prohibited from regulating them as long as they do not interfere with air traffic.

Operational Limitations

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
  • At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
  • Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
  • Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned.
  • May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
  • First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
  • Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
  • No operations are allowed in Class A (18,000 feet & above) airspace.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission
  • No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
  • No careless or reckless operations.
  • Requires preflight inspection by the operator.
  • A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know of any physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
  • Proposes a microUAS option that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, provided the operator certifies he or she has the requisite aeronautical knowledge to perform the operation.

Operator Certification and Responsibilities

  • Pilots of a small UAS would be considered “operators”.
  • Operators would be required to:
    • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
    • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
    • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
    • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. o Be at least 17 years old.
    • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
    • Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
    • Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.

Aircraft Requirements

  • FAA airworthiness certification not required. However, operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation. Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft).
  • Aircraft markings required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft). If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner.

Model Aircraft

  • Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
  • The proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in part 101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the NAS.

Interested in reading more? You can find the entire FAA draft here.

Alibaba becomes the latest company to test drone deliveries

It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s a tea-delivering drone! 

When it comes to the concept of delivery by drone, what’s not to love? Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has now begun testing drones for one-hour deliveries in China, following in the footsteps (or should we say air tracks) of other companies like Amazon, Google and DHL.


The one-off test, which was in collaboration with Shanghai YTO Express Logistics, was announced on Alibaba’s Taobao shopping website showing a drone quickly delivering a packet of ginger tea to a woman who apparently needed tea in a jiffy. All together, the trial will transport supplies to 450 customers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou over a three-day period between February 4-6, 2015.

What’s more, Alibaba claims that its 49-renimbi ginger tea packets will be delivered within an hour. As CNBC reports, the drones won’t land directly on a consumer’s front door, but outside a residential buildings instead. There, the package will be collected by human couriers who will complete the remaining part of the delivery process.

“By conducting the trial, Taobao and YTO Express officials aren’t hinting that drone-delivery service is ripe for commercialization,” the Alizila blog post explained. “Aviation authorities in China and the U.S. are pondering regulations to govern such activities.”

Regulation is also very strict in China, and operators of drones must first seek permission from the Civil Aviation Administration before piloting the flying device. Like Amazon, Alibaba would first have to abide by numerous regulations if it wanted to truly roll out a broader drone delivery system.

Door-to-door courier service is just one of many applicable uses of these unmanned aerial vehicles — many of which powered by AVR microcontrollers — and rely upon real-time apps. As our friends at PubNub reveal, no matter what the use case is, you need a way to signal and control those drones in real-time. With PubNub Data Streams, you can send and receive data between IoT embedded devices and microcontrollers, enabling Internet of Things developers to build interactive and powerful UAV applications.

CNN gets FAA clearance for drone journalism

Looks like Back to the Future II was right again, drones may soon be used for news-gathering. 

CNN has announced that in a first program of its kind, the news giant is working with the FAA to advance its efforts in launching camera-equipped drones for journalism and reporting purposes.


Since last year, the cable news network has been studying the use of drones for news-gathering by teaming up with researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has played an integral role in collecting data. The FAA said it will analyze that information to develop rules and acceptable regulations around these unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism,” urged David Vigilante, CNN’s Senior Vice President of Legal.

While earlier efforts have been in the works, CNN’s new announcement signifies that the media company has made substantial progress and that the FAA will seek to accelerate the work required to commercialize the technology.

Most recently, FAA had allocated a couple of largely uninhabited regions across the U.S. to test the commercial use of drones. At the moment, the federal agency only allows certain lightweight drones for flights of up to 400 feet. However, as CNN reports, the FAA is expected to downgrade a few of the laws this year, as drone tech is becoming more ubiquitous — which was clearly evident at CES 2015.


Aside from journalism, drones offer a number of advantageous real-world applications, ranging from disaster relief and farming to filmmaking and real estate. Several other companies are also making significant investments in UAVs as well, including Facebook, Amazon and Google, which will surely help spur the movement.

“Unmanned aircraft offer news organizations significant opportunities. We hope this agreement with CNN and the work we are doing with other news organizations and associations will help safely integrate unmanned news gathering technology and operating procedures into the National Airspace System,” explained FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

Rewind: 30 breathtaking drone videos of 2014

For many, the term “drone” seems to conjure images of military use and war weaponry. As a result, the mere thought of these futuristic flying devices tend to pose security and privacy concerns to several people. When, however, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used for defense purposes and those that may one day may buzz around the skies are quite different, and indeed, may change the world — for the better.

Amid recent security concerns, bans throughout U.S. national parks and ongoing regulation woes, these gadgets — some of which powered by Atmel 8 and 32-bit AVR microcontrollers —  have managed to capture stunning birds-eye views that would’ve otherwise been inconceivable a few years ago. Before the days of drone videos, filmmakers had to rely upon helicopters for such aerial shots; however, these ‘copters aren’t nearly as agile and inexpensive as UAVs. That said, there’s certainly no shortage of UAV footage.

Below, we’ve compiled just some of the most breathtaking videos taken over the last 12 months.

Christmas Spectacle

Necker Island

Alaskan Ice Cave

4th of July Fireworks

San Diego Yacht Fire

Lima, Peru

Erupting Volcano at Tanna Island

Burning Man

Seattle Space Needle

Above the Clouds in the Netherlands

Apple 2 Campus

Catching Waves in the Mentawai Islands

Dolphins at Dana Point

Niagara Falls

Beijing, China

Scaling the World’s Tallest Building in Dubai

Rockfall in Northern Italy

OK Go’s Music Video

Whale Watching in Maui

The Beauty of Baltimore

LA Love

Hong Kong Protests

The High Arctic

Serengeti Safari

The Big Apple


Winter Wonderland


Aerial Cape Town, South Africa

The Northern Roads of Oregon

Koh Yao Noi





Video: Drone captures footage of synchronized holiday lights

Flickering lights, check. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas,” check. Drone, check. Holiday cheer, check. In what is surely one of, if not, the most stunning Christmas spectacles we’ve seen this holiday season, the residents of Yucaipa, California recently came together to rig an entire neighborhood with synchronized lights and tunes. And, the result is pretty brilliant.

Resident Jeff Maxey recently uploaded a series of videos showcasing the impressive effort of his neighborhood using no other than a drone to capture a bird’s-eye view of the celebration.

Indeed, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen UAVs used to showcase holiday festivities. Last year, Bay Area filmmaker shared footage of San Francisco landmarks from the air — like the Ferry Building, Embarcadero Center, and Coit Tower — all decked out in lights.

Well, Santa hats off to you, folks! Perhaps this should be added to our list of awesome ways drones are being used today…

What the puck? Mistletoe drones help spread holiday cheer

While we’ve recently explored a number of innovative uses for drones, TGI Fridays has added yet another. This holiday season, the restaurant chain will have UAVs play cupid in select locations, all in an effort to entice guests to make their date night more spirited.


How it works is simple: The mistletoe-equipped drones will fly around the dining establishment and hover over couples trying to enjoy their fried green beans and Jack Daniel’s Burgers. When they kiss under the flying apparatus, they are awarded special gift cards to continue their holiday merriment. No kiss? No gift card for you!

In addition to the festive garland, the restaurant chain’s drone also features an HD kiss cam and is capable of capturing up to 20 minutes of spooching.


“At Fridays, we decided to put a little extra ‘happy’ into the holidays by rolling out the Mobile Mistletoe this December,” explained Brian Gies, TGI Fridays CMO. “We’re inviting friends to get together to enjoy a more spirited holiday season inspired by a little Mobile Mistletoe mischief. If guests show a little love under the mistletoe, Fridays might just show them a little love with some nice holiday gifts.”

Now, the idea of floating a UAV over patrons isn’t entirely a bad one. In fact, Gizmodo recently compiled a comical list of some other drone-driven restaurant experiences that could make eating even more enjoyable in the future.

If you recall, mistletoe drones helped spread their holiday cheer right there in the Bay Area last year, but this is the first time they’ll be hovering inside restaurants.

BIZZBY Sky trials on-demand drone delivery via real-time app

When it comes to the concept of delivery by drone, what’s not to love? While we’ve already seen major couriers like DHL and Amazon Prime prepare to take flight, a number of other companies ranging from Domino’s Pizza to Google also have their minds set on the sky.


Now, on-demand lifestyle services app BIZZBY has begun trials of a collect-and-deliver autonomous drone delivery service, which is capable of shipping small objects in real-time at the touch of a smartphone button. In addition, the London-based company says that the flying ‘copter can show real-time footage from an on-board camera.


In a recent statement, BIZZBY reveals that drones can be requested in seconds to arrive at a pick-up location within minutes. Talk about speedy delivery!

“An automated secure storage box is released to accept delivery items of up to 500 grams. At the tap of a button the drone departs to the delivery address, while an on­board camera delivers real­time footage of its journey to the recipient directly within the app. On arrival, the item is released from the secure compartment,” the company writes.


With the emergence of the Internet of Things and ubiquity of smart devices, BIZZBY is hoping to enable everyone to book their own delivery drone in a matter of seconds. Unlike other attempts before it, the company is focused on moving everyday items between everyday people.

“We are currently focused on delivering on­-demand lifestyle services from cleaning, handymen, beauty, deliveries to everyday help and believe in using technology to make our lives easier. As the pioneer of on­-demand services we believe drone delivery is the future and we’re at the forefront of its development,” says Rohan Sinclair Luvaglio, BIZZBY Founder and CEO.


The project’s greatest constraint at the moment are the UK’s civil aviation authority (CAA) regulations, battery power, weight and flight distance. Currently, the unmanned vehicles are able to fly at heights nearing 400-feet using built-in sensors to avoid collisions and adhere to restricted fly zones. In an attempt to counter the battery issue, the drones also include a reserve battery to help get the drone home safely.

“Although it may seem futuristic, technology is advancing rapidly and it’s a matter of time before we’re able to roll the service out to the public,” explains Luvaglio. “This is the future and we’re proud to be the first UK company driving innovation, just imagine the possibilities this opens up from delivering important documents, keys to urgent medical supplies ­ the sky’s the limit.”

Door-to-door delivery is just one of many applicable uses of these unmanned aerial vehicles — many of which powered by AVR microcontrollers — and rely upon real-time apps. As our friends at PubNub recently wrote, no matter what the use case is, you need a way to signal and control those drones in real-time. With PubNub Data Streams (which now support Arduino), you can send and receive data between IoT embedded devices and microcontrollers, enabling Internet of Things developers to build interactive and powerful drone applications.

You can stay up-to-date with the latest developments from the team by visiting their official website here. Meanwhile, you can access their full announcement here.

OK Go’s new drone-film music video is epic

Throughout the years, OK Go have made a name for themselves through a series of extremely innovative yet low-budget music videos. As a result, it’s no surprise the band was selected as ambassadors for this year’s White House Maker Faire by President Obama himself.


Embodying true Maker spirit, the alternative rock band decided to record the video for its latest hit “I Won’t Let You Down” by using a drone-mounted camera, which gave way for, as you can expect, some epic aerial footage and unprecedented visual mobility. As if the unicycles were enough, when the band makes its way outside, the unmanned vehicles follow them, soaring upwards to reveal a sea of dancers in a kaleidoscopic-like choreography of colored umbrellas.

We think Bare Conductive’s Matt Johnson said it best, “WHOA.”

From once inconceivable footage to awe-inspiring art, there are countless ways [AVR powered] drones can be used today. Here are 18 of them.