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Commercial Drone Industry Heating Up

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the parcel-delivery-services-i'm-looking-at-you dept.

Transportation 68

DeviceGuru writes "In light of the FAA's recent approval of two unmanned drones for commercial operation in U.S. airspace, it's interesting to see the bits and pieces for building commercial UAVs falling into place. For example, Airware demonstrated its line of autopilot computers for UAVs this week at AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013 in Washington DC. The devices include multi-rotor capabilities, and support various radios, GPS and inertial systems, servo interfaces, and onboard interfaces such as USB and CAN. The autopilot controllers run a configurable, royalty-free AirwareOS embedded Linux OS, making them amenable to considerable customization. Adding to that, Airware recently received $10.7 million in funding from Google Ventures and several other investors. This raises the question of what's next for the fledgling commercial drone industry."

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What's next? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44594409)

Search and destr... uhhh... rescue! That's it...

And maybe crop dusters to eradicate cannabis.. er.. I mean.. bol weevils

Re:What's next? (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#44594499)

Yeah, what is the point of "commercial" drones?

(If they are to be used for Law Enforcement and anti-terrorism domestic surveilence I would say thats not 'commercial'

Re:What's next? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44594521)

It doesn't who the buyers and sellers are. When money changes hands, it's commercial.

Re:What's next? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44594699)

"It doesn't who the buyers and sellers are. When money changes hands, it's commercial."

I'm curious. You clearly speak a new language I have never seen before. What is it called?

Re:What's next? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44595221)

:-) What's the... you don't understand English?

Re:What's next? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44596927)

No. You don't understand it, at least as far as the definition of the word commercial is concerned. :-)

Re:What's next? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44597173)

How much money for a product or service has to change hands then, before it becomes 'commercial'?

Re:What's next? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44597403)

It isn't about the amount. On the 1st of the month a lot of people got a check from the government. There was nothing commercial about it. The other day I bought an item from an NPO [] . Money changed hands. Again, there was nothing commercial about the exchange.

Re:What's next? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44597507)

It makes no sense to separate government from non-government. All the money should be counted as one, especially with the strong business influence over the state. Even the 'communist' countries were/are simply state run capitalism. They use the same spreadsheets as everybody else. Do not try to 'meddle with the forces of nature, Mr. Beal'.

Re:What's next? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44599641)

It makes as much sense as using a word with a specific definition to mean something completely different and then trying to weasel out of your misuse of the word while thinking you might be able to pull it off somehow.

Re:What's next? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44599927)

Definitions can change at the drop of a hat. Standards are known to become obsolete every once and a while. This might be one of those times. Money is money, no matter :-) who uses it. Your distinctions only serve as distractions.

Re:What's next? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44600931)

You just don't seem to get it. Either that or you are being intentionally moronic. The fact that definitions can change is immaterial, since in this case they didn't. When they do change, it isn't because some idiot on Slashdot made a ridiculous statement based on a lack of knowledge of a term, and then proceeded to try his best to back pedal rather than just admitting the mistake. Originally, you were just a guy who didn't know what a word means. There is nothing idiotic about that. You have since jumped right off the ledge off idiocy, however. Have a nice life. PLONK.

Re:What's next? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44601093)


1. The activity of buying and selling, esp. on a large scale.
2. Social dealings between people.

Once again., tell me where that excludes the government... Your attitude leaves a little something to be desired. But thanks for playing. It was very enlightening.

Re:What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44601241)

I see PLONK is another word you don't understand 8-)

Re:What's next? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44601277)

Yes, well, It's all for the entertainment of the viewing audience anyway. Nevertheless, he was doing well at playing the part of the fool.. And maybe you don't understand the meaning of 'commerce' either, considering your implication there :-)

Re:What's next? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44595471)


Re:What's next? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44594535)

Yeah, what is the point of "commercial" drones?


But so far only the oil industry gets to use them. Oh, and spy agencies, of course.

Re:What's next? (2)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about a year ago | (#44594827)

Yeah, what is the point of "commercial" drones?

(If they are to be used for Law Enforcement and anti-terrorism domestic surveilence I would say thats not 'commercial'

TV news stations might also buy them. A 1-foot-square quadcopter is much cheaper than a real helicopter.

Re:What's next? (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44595085)

an AR parrot modified to use longer range radio, and longer lasting battery pack(so a slightly larger version) deployable from the back of news vans.

traffic accident reporting could literally take on a new dimension.

Re:What's next? (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about a year ago | (#44596077)

Heck, even AM radio stations in Cincinnati could have their own traffic quadcopter drone(s). Les could stop beating his chest as he gazes longingly out a window...

Re:What's next? (3, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44595549)

Aerial photography, surveying, temporary communications relays for large gatherings (sports events, concerts and such - hover a few cellphone stations over the crowd), traffic monitoring/reporting, security.

Re:What's next? (3, Interesting)

Urkki (668283) | about a year ago | (#44595563)

Yeah, what is the point of "commercial" drones?

(If they are to be used for Law Enforcement and anti-terrorism domestic surveilence I would say thats not 'commercial'

First will be ubiquitous aerial photography. There's of course just plain getting photos for fun and for checking things like condition of roof, basically just cheaper version of current aerial photography and videos, such as a personal drone (instead of a helicopter with a camera crew, with total cost probably around $1000/hour) following you and filming you doing some sports.

But things will quickly go further with imaging stuff. For example, now you have "baby cams" so you can check on your baby sleeping from different room. In future there will be "kid drones" which will follow your kid (to playground, friends houses, going to school...) and let you check on them remotely.

Then there will be drones that actually do something, such as robot window cleaners, much like there are robot lawnmowers now. A bigger drone can function as a safety harness when working in high places much like an always-deployed parachute, and even a bigger drone can replace so called "cherry picker". In a restaurant or bar, a drone might bring your order to your table.

Lot of possibilities, and what really happens with drones during next several decades is hard to imagine beforehand, because drones have potential to be a life-changing technology, much like phones - mobile phones - smartphones, or travelling photographers - personal compact cameras - Internet-connected digital cameras. The essential thing with drones is, they can get to places without interfering with people (at least as long as we don't have personal jetpacks in common use).

Re:What's next? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595619)

Great.... helicopter parents with actual helicopters. What could go wrong?

Re:What's next? (2)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#44597965)

I can just imagine the crowded airspace over graduations, little league games, etc...

Re:What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44612967)

"will [there] be "kid drones" which will follow your kid"
Live under a rock? Yep, lots of people "youngsters" have'em I think they called "Google Glass"

Re:What's next? (1)

Urkki (668283) | about a year ago | (#44623457)

Google glasses? With kids playing outside? Right... I think you should come out of your underground dwelling before saying someone else lives under a rock...

Google Bidirectional Ocular Implants would be robust enough, bet they're not available in quite a few years yet.

Re:What's next? (2)

demachina (71715) | about a year ago | (#44595747)

Japan has been using unmanned helicopters to spray crops for decades. Yamaha [] makes them, though they are a little expensive. They are extremely good at it, the down wash from the rotor helps spread the spray all through the plants.

UC Davis, if memory serves, has started trials on them in the U.S. recently but the restrictive drone regulatory climate needs to relax a little

Re:What's next? (1)

phrostie (121428) | about a year ago | (#44595257)

Our Corporate Overlords want to keep an eye on us.

Re:What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595957)

You seem opposed to domestic use by government, & to avoid a 1984 scenerio I think that opposition is good, but to separate yourself from being a Luddite, you have to have an alternative proposal for how a technology should be used in the future.

A "drone" is just an RC plane/helicopter which:
1. Can detect it's orientation relative to the horizon
2. Can detect it's location relative to it's target or launch site
3. Has an MCU which can articulate actuators to influence it's orientation, & position.

They are scary to people because they represent persistent domestic surveillance &/or potentially "extrajudicial killing"(legalized murder). I can agree with you that both of these are "Bad Things TM" but flying machines are just unusually rapid & inexpensive methods of delivering payloads without making too much noise in the process.

The fact that they have largely replaced U2 pilots & Human Snipers is just a consequence of them offering superior risk adjusted ROI than humans. The lowered inhibitions towards using these tools when human lives are not at stake is a real problem which needlessly escalates international turmoil.

On the other hand, we don't ban snowmobiles because tank tracks are normally used on armored vehicles.
We don't ban model rocketry because they share the same propulsion method as missiles.

If you don't put a gun, explosive, or recording device on a drone: most people's objections to them disappear. FPV is needed and should be allowed, but I think a compromise may be necessary as far as recordings from unmanned aerial vehicles are concerned.

Potentially fruit of the poison tree unless a warrant is issued? IDK. I think that this being an inadequate level of protection & reassurance is a sad reflection of public confidence in the DoJ. A government agency which has been totally perverted by the war on drug users.

The appeal of band-aid solution like handicapping law enforcement via excluding them from access to modern technology is unfortunate, because it is a reaction to lost faith in the political process's impotency to reign in the DoJ by any other means.

Slashdot is where Black People Meet! (-1)

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Re:Slashdot is where Black People Meet! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44597367)

When we get rid of whitey, Earth will be a beautiful black planet. And when that time comes, we'll rename the internet, the nigganet or niggernet, just to remind us of what it was like during the time when you people were always hollering at us about something.

What's next... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594423)

"You damn drones get off my lawn!"

Irony (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594643)

Well isn't this ironic... you tech nerds have been going on and on about how Microsoft is big brother for 20+ years now. Now it's the beloved Linux who will be looking down from above.

Re:Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594929)

Hate to feed a troll, but there are people actually like this out there. Because clearly Linus himself and the subsystem maintainers meet with the manufacturer, shook hands, and then proceeded to exchange the code for one bazillion dollars. Because it's not like it's a free kernel known for running on everything ever with the same level of hackability.

Taking out an airliner or power line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594713)

I can't wait for one of these things to take out an airliner or power line.

*no, I don't actually want to see people die in a crash or old folks die from lack of AC, but... you just know it's going to happen

Airworthy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594725)

How are any of these things airworthy? Fly by wire airplane require triple redundant data buses and flight computers. They have multiple sensors fusing location data. Granted, they kill 300+ people at a time, but there are a lot fewer real airplanes than people want of these hazards. The safety case just isn't there to allow these things to fly with a single line of sight link, unless they have on-board radar for collision avoidance and redundant flight computers. Otherwise, they're just a menace that are appropriate only for shooting hellfires at brown people.

Re:Airworthy? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year ago | (#44595567)

or maybe to bring in some 'goodies' over the border without having to deal with those pesky Customs agents?

It should be legal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594731) shoot them down! Oh, & to sell the means to do so. I mean, I don't want a quiet read on my back porch interrupted by someone else's droning drone. Would you?

Biggest market will be the media. (1)

deviated_prevert (1146403) | about a year ago | (#44594783)

Here is an angle for drones everyone forgets. Just image the enhanced ability to snoop for the national enquirer. My prediction is that freelance photo hogs will be using them soon. It will be as big as photoshop is for making celebs look bad. Ethics will always be trumped by big bucks with these guys. You can bet that there will be people screaming for "no fly zones" all over the planet as this starts to happen.

The other aspect is liability for the ones that crash, just suppose one starts a fire somewhere in a national park or on private land. Some of them are big enough that they could give you a really good hair cut to say the least.

Re:Biggest market will be the media. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594789)

Oh, so close... you started good. Not that anyone really has traffic helicopters anymore, but those could be replaced. Spying on celebrities though would be really tough... the range is too great.

Re: Biggest market will be the media. (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44595613)

You have no idea how long range telescopic camera lenses actually can see. The "topless" pics of Kate Middleton/cambridge where taken from a half mile away.

Think about it a papparrzi had a lens capable of good shots from half a mile away. What happens when treelines are also no longer an obstacle.

I am not worried about me. But once in use out will be abused.

Re: Biggest market will be the media. (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#44598583)

Yup, and a vibrating little toy chopper with a cheap camera will not make a good quality picture

Everything for destruction, nothing for survival (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#44594897)

Do you know that FAA prevents international carriers from being able to fly people within national US borders?

So if you are a Swiss airline, as an example, if you fly to New York, let passengers off your plane, pick up some passengers and then fly to Los Angeles and pick up more passengers, if your plane has empty seats on that NY to LA flight, you are prohibited by FAA to pick up national passengers (people who just want to go from NY to LA).

Isn't it amazing? FAA allows commercial operation of drones in USA space, (eventually armed drones, of-course), but they will not allow competition to help people, when they are already in fact hurting with the insane amount of inflation created by the Fed, which translates into higher and higher prices in fuel, maintenance, etc.

It should be amazing. FAA shouldn't even exist, there shouldn't be a government agency allowing or preventing people from flying passengers OR from flying unarmed drones for that matter, but wait, the international lines will still be not allowed to fly passengers on national routes but drones will eventually have weapons on them.... for security, to fight the terrorists and for the children of-course.

Re: Everything for destruction, nothing for surviv (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44595631)

While that sucks do remember that is to keep american run airlines in business. No one really realizes just how much protectionism the government does to keep"american capitalism " in business. The USA as a country can't compete as we are so top heavy with managements.

Re: Everything for destruction, nothing for surviv (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#44596045)

Except that's nonsense. If FAA and USA government cared to keep American airlines in business, they wouldn't be blocking the merger of two of them at this point, which is probably the only way to keep at least one of them operational. I wrote about it here [] .

What you are saying is not true, it's not about "keeping American airlines in business", it's about creating a monopoly and keeping prices up artificially where consumers would be much better served if there was more competition. There is an insane amount of regulations, rules, taxes that are crammed down the throats of American businesses by the collectivist socialist/fascist government, which uses the lowest common denominator - the dumbest and the biggest crowd, the mob, to justify its power grab. The mob gives the government the ability to exercise unauthorised powers and then the top politically connected people and the bottom 50 or so percent gang up together against the people who are in between those two extremes. So the real middle class gets destroyed - the businesses that are not politically connected, the people who are in fact providing most of the real products and services and jobs, the ones who actually hold the economy together.

Eventually they will destroy that small fraction of the population and only the poor and the top 0.001%, those with the political power will remain.

All this protectionism does not keep American airlines running, it destroys all American business eventually. Of-course it starts with the Federal reserve, IRS, FDIC, FBI, NSA, all of the departments, from energy and education, to commerce and agriculture and interior and housing banking and war, you name it.

The government ends up destroying all of the economy in the long run and people believe that the government should be doing something to "protect US ran airlines and other businesses in the short run", this is the real short term thinking, the kind that /. crowd likes to accuse corporations of, not even understanding that they are absolutely complicit.

thousands of commercial applications... (2)

aapold (753705) | about a year ago | (#44595079)

Fedex drones, Google Streetview Drones, Pizza Delivery Drones, Banner-toting advertisement drones, Summons serving drones, etc etc..

Re:thousands of commercial applications... (2)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#44595103)

Fedex drones, Google Streetview Drones, Pizza Delivery Drones, Banner-toting advertisement drones, Summons serving drones, etc etc..

Don't forget Chinese take out. The Flying Wok brings a whole new concept into being.

Re:thousands of commercial applications... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44596093)

You forgot sky cranes. Lifting heavy weight stuff on construction sites or even something like material for roof repair would be ideal.

Re:thousands of commercial applications... (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about a year ago | (#44596143)

A Fedex / UPS truck that can deploy short range, high cargo capacity (~25 lbs) drones as they drive through the major streets for deliveries could massively increase the speed and efficiency for that industry. A second or the same truck could swing through sending out a retrieval signal later.

How do the current commercial implementations handle object avoidance of moving objects? I could foresee that current systems which are capable of handling buildings and cars not being so capable at avoiding other small, fast moving drones crossing their airspace.

Re: thousands of commercial applications... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44597991)

Good point. I volunteer for habitat for humanity....I'd love a drone to bring tools to and from the rooftop.

Re: thousands of commercial applications... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44599235)

I like your idea, but why come back? I see the truck entering a development and pulling over. Driver goes to the rear and deploys half a dozen delivery drones. Then he drives towards the exit of the neighborhood and just waits for them to return.

Re:thousands of commercial applications... (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#44598017)

"Something sizzled to the right of him. A commercial, made by Theodorus Nitz, the worst house of all, had attached itself to his car.

"Get off," he warned it. But the commercial, well-adhered, began to crawl, buffeted by the wind, toward the door and the entrance crack. It would soon have squeezed in and would be haranguing him in the cranky, garbagey fashion of the Nitz advertisements.

He could, as it came through the crack, kill it. It was alive, terribly mortal: the ad agencies, like nature, squandered hordes of them.

The commercial, flysized, began to buzz out its message as soon as it managed to force entry. "Say! Haven't you sometimes said to yourself, I'll bet other people in restaurants can see me! And you're puzzled as to what to do about this serious, baffling problem of being conspicuous, especially-"

Chic crushed it with his foot."

Philip K. Dick - 1964

I have a feeling... (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44595707)

I have a feeling that Apple and Samsung's drones might shoot at each other.

Re:I have a feeling... (2)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about a year ago | (#44596101)

Well, I think we already know which one will be able to survive landing on the ground from more than 3 feet...

Commercial Uses for Drones (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596395)

The trouble is, we have all been exposed, in fact over-exposed, to drone-use-abuse. For it our first thoughts go to abusive uses drones could be put to. Uses such as law "enforcement", spying, paparazzi-platforms, gangster-rub-out "torpedo" use, as the CIA and Obama Admin have made notorious, etc.
In fact, there are probably almost as many legitimate uses for ariall drones, or remotely operated arial vcehicles (ROAVs) as there are for submarine drones, or remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROUVs). Air being a cinoressible fluid, and so providing less stability, there are fewer direct tool-application uses likely for arial drones, but there are inspection uses, fire-watch, data-collection uses (balloon ROAVs are used for this already), storm-meltdown-accident, etc. site reconnaisance, rescue location (to find victims, etc.) and plain old-fashioned pilotless cargo-transport uses, as we've seen in rockets for decades.
Bear in mind that rocketry began as a drone-operation activity, and most rockets today are still operated as unmanned vehicles. Until the space-shuttles, most manned rockets were remotely operated, or remotely supervised even where operators and controls were on board. Yes, some rockets, some whole classes of rockets, from V-1s to the things the CIA uses to do gangster-style rub-outs from UAVs, are abuse-purposed ROVs. But their being so does not define all rocket vehicles, or rocket uses as evil. It's the users who are evil.
Just as we should with guns, we should legislate to keep drones out of the hands of abusers, including police forces, spying agencies, gangsters, governmental or otherwise, papperazzi, private detective agents, ex-spouses and lawyers, to name a few.

Re:Commercial Uses for Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596703)

If you believe that these things should be as safe as manned aircraft, then the business case shits itself. They're more complex. The pilot isn't in the aircraft. Therefore, it has to be more complex than a manned aircraft. Therefore, it will inevitably be more complex.

Besides, is it really a "good thing" to have this shit flying around? We keep talking about search and rescue, but search and rescue is already almost all about the rescue, not the search. You only read about the searches in the news because they make for better reading.

True Domestric Terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596535)

Thousands of wives following their husbands on nights out with the boys.

Re:True Domestric Terrorism (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#44598039)

Thousands of wives following their husbands on nights out with "the boys."


Waste on big bro. (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about a year ago | (#44596747)

Video cameras can be destroyed with a pen laser. Fly over my house and I guarantee you will be buying a new camera each flight. If one can kill a mosquito with lasers a drone will be child's play.

Autonomous Robotic G00gle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596803)

A company presently being driven with human vision that is being set up to run completely without the need for human input, with driverless cars and pilotless aircraft shivers me timbers. Of course manning the sea, robotically, will be quintessential to complete this quest. ARG!

Local PD using them today without approval (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44597207)

Our local PD here in South Carolina has been using aerial drones without approval for months now. They have been spotted around town at dusk due to their lighting. Sometimes they hover over the ghetto, and sometimes they fly over the lake, presumably looking for people drinking on boats.

But, the point is, they can't be the only ones.

And the consumer surface-to-air missile market... (1)

quonsar (61695) | about a year ago | (#44597877)

...will soon be an investor's wet dream?

If it's not super regulated now, it will be (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about a year ago | (#44597997)

There's a reason private pilots aren't allowed to fly manned aircraft over urban airspace. If there aren't rules restricting the use of drones in cities to licensed operators with lots of insurance, there will be. I doubt it'll ever be economical for pizza delivery.

Re:If it's not super regulated now, it will be (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about a year ago | (#44598127)

Private pilots fly over urban airspace all the time. I used to live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and there are small airports all over the place.

Re:If it's not super regulated now, it will be (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#44598595)

Most of these toys are just somewhat improved RC planes and are allowed to fly up to about 300 feet. The important thing for people to realize is that most of these are mere toys and just as useless.

Re:If it's not super regulated now, it will be (1)

ScentCone (795499) | about a year ago | (#44599179)

It's not a matter of it being "super regulated" or not. With the (very tightly controlled) approval of specific uses for two specific aircraft being the exception, all commercial use of UAS (regardless of size) is banned by the FAA. It's hard to be more regulated than "banned."

Drones aka big skeet (1)

CHIT2ME (2667601) | about a year ago | (#44603431)

As soon as they put these drones, aka big skeet, up there us hillbillies will use them as targets. No humans will be harmed during this sport!!!

Here comes the VC hype machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44604563)

Now that the Internet elite (Andreessen and Google Ventures) are in the game, expect to see more articles about this company and not necessarily the drone industry. Heck it would be nice to see some performance specs considering 3D Robotics is doing nearly the same for 1/8 the costs of these units and Hoverfly or Procerus (now lockheed) does it for 20% less..

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