MSF Canada Drone Day

DSC00266I recently had the honour of attending the MSF Canada AGM in Montreal to join Ivan Gayton and Stephen Mather (from Open DroneMap fame) run a drone day for the MSF logisticians. The aim being to show the realm of the possible with current drone technology as well as touch on future trends and ethical considerations.

A second agenda we had was to promote the democratisation of drone technology to enable crowd sourced imagery collection as part of the Missing Maps initiative. 2015-06-12 14.57.27More specifically, the goal is to bring drone technology down to a level where it can be built, maintained, and operated safely, responsibly, and independently by a local high school in South Sudan, the local University of Lubumbashi, or similar. 

The full (draft) concept note behind this can be found here.

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The Autonomous Systems Showcase

sotonuasLast week I attended the Autonomous Systems Showcase event at the University of Southampton. The focus of the event was to bring together industry, government and academia “to explore commercial and research opportunities to deliver the next generation of aerospace, marine, defence and other advanced systems technology to keep the UK at the forefront of these important industries“.

Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, delivered the opening keynote. Other speakers included Sir Brian Burridge, Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Finmeccanica UK, and Michael Pickwoad, Production Designer from Dr Who, who talked about his creative process and the relationship between science and fiction.

The event also included industry and university showcase stands with particular emphasis on the work Southampton has done, and is doing, around unmanned aerial vehicles and underwater devices.

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Drones for Humanity and Drone User Group Network UK

rhinoOne liner summary: If you are interested in applying drone/UAV technology (or are already doing so) to humanitarian/social/conservation related problems, and you live in the UK. then get in touch.

I have worked with drones quite extensively in the past, including some work with the BBC, and still do in various ways now. I have to say, though, that I dislike the term drone and much prefer to use the term UAV or UAS. But that’s a different story.

I have also always had an interest in international development, social issues, and education. This has led to me running numerous Random Hacks of Kindness events, giving talks on ICT4D, and volunteering as a STEM Ambassador. I recently organized a NodeCopter event with the local Makerspace and have talked about UAV technology to groups as diverse as 11-13 year olds to The Ladies Luncheon Club where the average age is 65.

Inspired by the recent DroneConference in the US, a coffee with the founder of ShadowView, and the enthusiasm of the UAV guy at Doctors Without Borders, I am now looking to reach out to similar minded people and see if maybe we can set up a Drone User Group chapter here in the UK? Founded in the US by Timothy Reuter, their tagline is: Promoting the Use of Civilian Drone Technology for the Benefit of Humanity. They also recently announced a drone social impact award. I contacted Timothy and he was very supportive of the idea.

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UAVs meet Node.js – NodeCopter comes to Southampton on 10 Aug

nodecopterlogoI have always been a fan of autonomous flying machines, particular their civilian applications, and through my past work at the University I have been fortunate to be able to work on the design and building of UAVs. I have also been a keen attender of various meetups and hackathons .

I was therefore immediately sold when I heard about the Node Copter concept: getting together and see what you can make a Parrot AR Drone do by the end of the day using node.js. Best explained by video:

I got in touch with Benjie (from So Make It) and Andy Nesbitt (who has run a number of these) asking them if they were interested in helping organize one in Southampton.

Both responded with a “hell yeah!” and after some prep Im happy to announce that you can should sign up on the Eventbrite page:

Eventbrite - Nodecopter Southampton

The event will be held at the makerspace itself. There is a small attendance charge to avoid people signing up but not turning up.

Some prior coding experience (in whatever language) is required.

See you there!

Dirk

DECODE Mark VI UAV test flight

image11151A bit late after the fact but I have been meaning to do a short post about the latest UAV test flight. A new airframe was developed as part of the European 2Seas 3i project. 2Seas is an EU funded project looking at high reliability UAVs for civil and maritime surveillance.

Its a twin petrol engine aircraft with twin carbon fibre booms, an H-tail and modular payload pod. These pods can be specified to carry a range of cameras and overall endurance can be 12 hours or more. Twin on-board generators maintain the avionics capability for extended duration flights. All up weight is about 20kg.

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Friendly Drones

convdronesThere is so much polemic surrounding the use of drones these days that it can get frustrating for somebody who also sees the positive contributions the technology can make. Never mind the great potential unmanned technology has for driving innovation and getting youngsters interested in STEM (something that is severely needed).

Of course there are lots of questions to be raised about the use of unmanned systems (and remotely piloted aircraft in particular) in military conflict. These topics have been, and still are, debated at length in the media, wikipedia, and blogs such as DroneWarsUK. Instead, like Drones For Good, I will focus on some of the positive projects the technology has enabled in the humanitarian, environmental, and social space. I am not the only one who would welcome more balanced coverage here.

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A new UAV airframe, the Olympics, and Blue Peter

I realized I never really blogged about this, but the tools I put together were used to design another airframe. The mission was initially quite secretive but now I can reveal that we were working together with the BBC to develop a UAV that could be used to provide footage at the Olympics. As added bonus the Blue Peter show would be involved as well and run a competition to name the aircraft and provide a colorful design.

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