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Drones

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Let’s put a drone on it.

The latest in this hey-look-at-me car trend comes from BYD, the company that just overtook Tesla in global EV sales. It recently demonstrated a DJI Mavic 3 Pro “Auto Docker” that lives atop a U8 SUV from luxury sub-brand YangWang. It safely stores the drone and contains a battery-swapping robot, all of which can be monitored and controlled from the infotainment system. Great if you’re an #SUVLIFE influencer, I guess.


DJI made a delivery drone — and it’s huge.

I’ve included a few of DJI’s photos of the drone, called the FlyCart 30, below. It can carry as much 30kg as far as 16km when utilizing its dual-battery configuration, according to a press release.

The drone has already been released in China, but it’s now going to be coming out globally, DJI says. The company anticipates that it will be available by the end of Q1, spokesperson Regina Lin tells The Verge.


A photo of DJI’s FlyCart 30 drone.

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Image: DJI
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TikTok
Check out these stunning drone shots of Iceland's latest eruption.

The volcano in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula erupted on Monday following weeks of intense earthquakes, forming an almost 2.5-mile lava-spewing fissure.

Tourists have been asked to avoid the area — these videos taken on a DJI Mavic 3 Pro are a much safer way to enjoy the sights instead. The nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal hot spot (sorry) was closed last month and the local town of Grindavik has been evacuated.


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Amazon’s drone delivery still hasn’t taken off.

This New York Times story catches up on Bezos’ now decade-old promise of ultra-fast airborne delivery. It’s not widespread yet, but there are people who can get it. Like smart homes and robot vacuums, the reality is less compelling than the vision.

Mr. Conner also ordered the free Skippy peanut butter but forgot to put out the landing target, so the drone went away. Then he ordered it again. Meanwhile, an Amazon delivery person showed up with the first jar. So now he and his wife, Belinda, have two jars.


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PG&E can now fly drones without boots on the ground.

PG&E — not the most popular utility — can now just press a button to dispatch a self-flying Skydio X2 for inspections. It’s setting up automatic drone docks at 12 substations by end of year, and California will let the drones fly along power lines up to two miles away.

While the utility’s BVLOS waiver doesn’t seem to waive the need to have someone watching the drone from the ground, PG&E says it doesn’t need them.


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Youtube
Skydio’s drones do the things I want now they won’t sell to me.

Look, all I wanted was a self-flying drone that folds, doesn’t need good light to fly, with a real controller and a quality camera for, IDK, less than the price of a PC. Instead, Skydio conceded its entire consumer business to DJI and gave all its toys to the po-po.

The new X10 can apparently fly itself in total darkness. Damn am I jealous.


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The FAA is pushing back its Remote ID compliance date for drones.

The FAA is extending its Remote ID requirement by six months. That means drone operators will have until March 16th, 2024, to add a module to their drones that broadcasts the device’s identity, location, and other information to agencies like the FAA and local law enforcement.

The FAA previously set a compliance date of September 16th, 2023. It notes that operators who don’t comply before the deadline could “face fines and suspension or revocation of pilot certificates.”


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“I’m flying off the wing of something that’s making its own decisions. And it’s not a human brain.”

...said an Air Force pilot quoted in a story about the challenges and realities of the Air Force’s Skyborg AI wingman program in The New York Times today.

It’s not quite that fake story about an AI drone killing its handler to circumvent its directives, but this passage tells a similar story about surprising, if less problematic, AI problem-solving:

In early tests, the autonomous drones already have shown that they will act in unusual ways, with the Valkyrie in one case going into a series of rolls. At first, Major Elder thought something was off, but it turned out that the software had determined that its infrared sensors could get a clearer picture if it did continuous flips.


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This shouldn't have to be said.

But...


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Amazon’s drone delivery operations lost two leaders in the past month.

Jim Mullin, Amazon Prime Air’s chief pilot, left Amazon last month, according to an update to his LinkedIn profile spotted by CNBC. Meanwhile, Robert Dreer, Prime Air’s head of test flight operations, announced his departure on LinkedIn last week.

Amazon has been struggling to get its drone delivery program off the ground. While the company projected it would send 10,000 deliveries by the end of this year, CNBC reported that it had only made 100 deliveries as of May.


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The ACLU is warning of “an explosion in law enforcement use of drones.”

Today I learned one California police department freely shows you when, where, and why it flies surveillance drones over the city, so the public can sanity-check. But what about the other 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the USA?

Every city and state has to decide how much drone surveillance is appropriate, and the ACLU’s just-published overview of law enforcement drone surveillance fears can help bring you up to speed on the nuances.


Eye-in-the-Sky Policing Needs Strict Limits

[American Civil Liberties Union]

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Some of my best drone footage so far.

OK, OK. I don’t want to brag. But the truth is that I was getting worried about how all my drone footage in my DJI Air 3 review was starting to become very one-dimensional.

Until one day, there was an intense passing storm, which resulted in some of the best clips I’ve ever gotten on a drone. Putting myself at risk for content every single day! Sort of.


Is drone innovation plateauing?

I was a little worried everyone would jump down my throat for this hot take, but I’ve been having a blast talking to other drone enthusiasts in the YouTube comments. Yes, YouTube comment section can sometimes be very productive.

Come hang! And tell me which drone you’re flying these days? Do you have a reason to upgrade?


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A flying 3x zoom lens is where it’s at!

I only received my review unit of the DJI Mavic 3 Pro Cine last night, but it didn’t stop me from catching some nice sunset clips to show you what all three lenses can capture. (Yes, “Mavic 3 Pro Cine” is a mouthful; this naming convention is getting out of hand!)


How about 20 minutes flight time instead of 12?

Sony just announced upgraded software and accessories for its $9,000 professional Airpeak S1 drone released in 2021.

The new, denser 3,938mAh battery packs ($400 each) enable the increased flight time, along with a new lighter-weight Gremsy gimbal ($4,000) that is designed for more accurate imaging in industrial applications. It works better with smaller lenses like the 24mm f/2.8 G.

And with Sony’s new RTK kit ($4,000) the Airpeak can be controlled more reliably and accurately, especially around areas of strong interference — think wind turbines. It also enables repeat missions with centimeter-accurate positioning compared to the previous meter-accurate GNSS system.


Sony’s fully decked-out Airpeak S1 with new RTK kit.
Sony’s fully decked-out Airpeak S1 with new RTK kit.
Image: Sony