In a recent PR stunt, Amazon.com claimed that it would soon be making small package deliveries by way of drones. They named their new service Amazon Prime Air. If the mainstream media knew everything that would be involved in making this a practical and realistic operation, their stories and reports may have had a different spin. Then again, Amazon has enough clout to get publicity when and where they want it and, let’s face it – all you need to do is mention “drone” and they’re all over it. Drooooone… What the whole thing amounts to is a clever marketing trick to get some attention during one of the busiest shopping times of the year: Cyber Monday.
I am not knocking Amazon as a company, I think they’re great at what they do. I myself order most consumer goods from them. But I must call them out on this claim of theirs and thank them for giving me a little laugh about how gullible, ignorant, and lazy our media personnel have become. Yes, we all want to believe that drones delivering packages to us is something that will happen soon. It is a damn cool idea and we all want our hoverboards, flying cars, and everything else Hollywood Sci Fi films have promised us. But hit the brakes! Delivery via drone isn’t going to happen any time soon for Amazon or anyone else. It’ll take some time. From the perspective of someone who’s been a Commercial Pilot for over 10 years and has been flying MultiRotors for just over 2 – I present to you 10 reasons why Amazon Prime Air just won’t fly:
1. Lack of FAA regulations governing drones and their operators. Specifically, we need some regulations governing the operation of small scale aircraft (such as MultiRotors) that would be tasked with flying unsupervised in the vicinity of people and metropolitan areas. I say “need” because you can’t trust random unregulated humans with maintaining public safety if there are no guidelines to follow. Humans just wouldn’t act responsibly enough if there were no rules. See the idiot in Manhattan for more details on that.
2. Our current equipment is not airworthy for operations over populated areas. Pending creation of the aforementioned FAA regulations, operators will have to ensure their equipment meets very specific standards to carry out a flight over a populated area. Since those standards have not yet been outlined it is my educated guess that the equipment currently available will not meet such standards. Every real aircraft has an Airworthiness Certificate, and I think commercial drones undertaking delivery jobs would also require such a certificate.
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Karlsruhe, Germany – November 17th, 2013
Great news in the world of MultiRotors! e-volo just accomplished a successful series of test flights with their new full sized two seat MultiRotor, the VC200 also known as the Volocopter. Only 2 years after their first manned MultiRotor flight with the VC1 (see video below) they have completed a more refined prototype which includes a fully covered structure and a partially enclosed two person cockpit. They expect to prepare it for production in the coming years.
Indoor testing included multiple flights totaling 20 minutes of air time at altitudes of up to 22 meters. The e-volo team claims that some battery capacity did remain after the tests. Reading through their full blog post about the flight it seems that they were all quite pleased with these initial results. They were particularly surprised by the lack of visible vibrations from the on-board HD footage that was captured. They end their release with this statement: “Nearly all problems of normal helicopters are thereby solved.”
While I am thrilled to make this news posting, I would say that while they may think they’ve solved all the problems of normal helicopters, they’re about to encounter a whole new set of problems that arise when you try to throw 2 humans in a full sized MultiRotor and expect for it to fly safely for a useful period of time. My first thought is always redundancy. Before you catch me zipping to and fro in a full sized MultiRotor, waving to hot babes on the beach – we need to discuss systems. Based on my experience with real aircraft it is my opinion that there must be the following redundant systems: power supply, thrust, flight control. In the case of MultiRotors, I believe that it is imperative that these systems each be capable of operating independent from one another to keep the copter in the air in the event of single and multiple failures.
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The title should read Ron Howard: On Filmaking, but having grown up with Happy Days playing on the tube – I will forever associate this man with the famous television show. That being said, when I look at the incredible selection of enormous films he has worked on, his accomplishments as a director far overshadow his early acting career.
In this brief clip, Mr. Howard gives us some insight into how he got started in the film industry. He talks about the power of editing and shares some great thoughts that are applicable to any aspiring filmmaker. A few pieces of advice particularly resonate with me. One is his recommendation that anyone who plans direct films should take a few acting classes and even be in some plays. Having acted in the show Line and a few of side projects, I can honestly say I found that being an actor is one of the most difficult things to do well. I myself was a pretty bad actor, but working with the cast of Line taught me a lot about the process, studies required, and what actors go through do their jobs. It was one of the most interesting periods of time in my life and I was lucky enough to work with some very dedicated, non-pretentious people.
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As more new people get into MultiRotors and drones a very important topic needs to be addressed – Safety. The two videos on this page illustrate in a very blunt manner, just a few of the risks involved in operating these machines. Simply put, if safety practices are not learned very early on – a person can easily injure themselves or someone else. In the top video, the poor fellow essentially injures himself by forgetting to unplug the battery before picking up a faulty machine. He was left with stitches and nerve damage. In the video below, a photographer flies a small quadcopter into the groom’s head while filming at a wedding. Only minor injuries with this one, but it could have been worse. Both accidents would have been avoided if basic safety protocol was followed.
MultiRotor manufacturers are working overtime to put user friendly MultiRotors in the hands of more of the mainstream populous because it’s good for their business. The are readily using phrases such as “can be flown by anyone”, without really considering that they may in fact be placing a lightweight weapon into the hands of an idiot who possesses little to no judgement. The problem for us non-idiots is the same as it has been since the dawn of man…some idiot is going to ruin the fun for the rest of us, and soon. There needs to be some sort of safety education that occurs whenever a new person decides they want to put a MultiRotor into the air. I would say that part of the responsibility to provide this safety education should rest with those companies who decide to build and sell “easy to fly” MultiRotors. The rest of the responsibility rests with our government and with our current community of flyers. To do my part, I finally got down to starting the learning section of this website — and guess what the first part covers?
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I recently spotted the newest quadruped robot under development by Boston Dynamics and it reminded me of a little robotic quadcopter a friend had recently shown me (see video below). For those of you unfamiliar with Boston Dynamics, they are funded by DARPA and seem to be doing some of the most advanced research and development work in the realm of robotics. If you haven’t seen one of their mechanical monsters at work, you will be shocked the first time you witness one in action. The clip above demonstrates one of the latest model in their series of 4 legged robots – it’s called the WildCat. This machine is capable of bounding and galloping strides and has reached a speed of 16mph – remarkable considering how large it is.
In the future I am sure we’ll see some melding between the worlds of robotics and MultiRotors. Practically speaking, I think it is essential to integrate robotics if MultiRotors are to be used for utility purposes such as lifting objects or performing more complicated tasks like repairs. We’ll see where it goes from here and possibly even take part in some of the future development! One thing is for sure – things are going to start to get really interesting in the next few years. Strap a huge quadcopter to the back of that WildCat and look out! For now what we have for you to see is a small quadcopter outfitted with folding mechanized arms and 4 legs it can sort of walk around on. Not very useful, and a grossly inefficient tradeoff between additional weight as it applies to increased functionality. This is how ideas start though, so hat’s off to the designer of this little quadcopter: