Gary Mortimer's Posts (323)

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Down on the farm with drones


Patrick Egan

There are bushels of folks out there now spending money and putting time in finding niches for unmanned systems that already exist. You may be saying, isn’t that what we should be doing? Possibly, but first we have to understand that the idea of carrying sensors on aircraft is not revolutionary, it has been going on for years. Drones too, but we are supposed to act like it doesn’t happen because FAA policy says so.

At the lower end of the data collection spectrum of course is photography. Pretty pictures may be enough to satisfy some. However, others may need just a little more data to make all of the regulatory hassle and cash outlay worthwhile. Let’s use the pick-up truck analogy that has been bandied about. Sure you can haul your roller-skates, but does the added expense and cost to operate justify the outlay?

Read the full article at sUAS News

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Chris Anderson, the former Editor-in-Chief of Wired and now CEO of 3-D Robotics, talks with The Atlantic's James Fallows about the role of drones for civilian uses. This program is part of The Atlantic Meets the Pacific 2013 conference presented by The Atlantic and UC San Diego. (#25784)

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I can't get enough of this platform

The aircraft is Aerovel’s 20-kg Flexrotor, which combines VTOL and small footprint with Hawaii-to-West Coast range. The carrier is a 4-metre skiff equipped to launch, retrieve, and service Flexrotor automatically. In what are believed to be the first-ever flight cycles of an unmanned aircraft based on an unmanned boat, Flexrotor launched from the remotely-controlled skiff while underway, climbed out as a helicopter, transitioned to wing-borne flight, imaged the skiff while flying at low and high speeds, transitioned back to thrust-borne flight, and retrieved autonomously onboard. The aircraft then shut down, was automatically refueled and restarted, and repeated the first flight, finally being secured onboard in a docking station. Aircraft and skiff then came ashore, and were driven 100 miles home into the setting sun.

Tad is a wonderful friend to sUAS News and we can't thank him enough for the scoop. Keep reading sUAS News folks we will keep you a couple weeks ahead of the rest ;-)

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Trappy's Counsel File Motion To Dismiss


Well it's begun and this case will have an impact on all of you in the USA in one way or another. For those that did not hear about it Trappy is facing a $10,000 dollar fine.

The Complaint alleges that on or about October 17, 2011, Mr. Pirker (a Swiss citizen residing overseas) was the “pilot in command” of a “Ritewing Zephyr powered glider aircraft” in Charlottesville, Virginia. Compl.   It next asserts that “[t]he aircraft referenced above is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).”  As a matter of undisputed public record, a Ritewing Zephyr is in fact a popular type of radio-control model airplane made of a kind of styrofoam and weighs approximately four and a half pounds once equipped with batteries, radio, motor, and other components.

The Administrator alleges that Mr. Pirker’s Zephyr was equipped with a camera, that Mr. Pirker operated the model for the purpose of supplying aerial video and photographs of the University ofVirginia campus to an advertising agency, and that he was compensated by that firm for the video and photographs.  4-6. The Complaint notes that Mr. Pirker does not hold an FAA pilot’s certificate.

The balance of the Complaint sets out a list of allegedly dangerous characteristics of Mr.Pirker’s operation of his model airplane on October 17, 2011. It alleges that he “operated the abovedescribed aircraft at extremely low altitudes over vehicles, buildings, people, streets, and structures.”  More specifically, it alleges, inter alia, that he operated the model airplane “through a UVA tunnel containing moving vehicles,” “below tree top level over a tree lined walkway,” “within approximately 15 feet of a UVA statue,” “within approximately 50 feet of railway tracks,” “within approximately 25 feet of
numerous UVA buildings,” and “directly towards a two story UVA building below rooftop level and made an abrupt climb in order to avoid hitting the building.”

Patrick Egan of sUAS News was given access to documents today and he wrote:-

Without a doubt, there is a lot riding on this issue for both the community and FAA. As we have seen in the past, people start to line up on those different sides of those issues with independent views on how the law works, what image the community should portray. Whatever the eventual outcome, we should at the very least have a better understanding and some clarification on how the process is supposed to work, and discern where exactly the U.S. RPAS community stands.

More at

Trappy, along with Chris Anderson is a speaker next week at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference

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The new forums need YOU!


By now everybody must be aware of the excellent new wiki's that the team has been putting hours of work into and really doing a fine job of it. You might have also seen the Community drop down menu at the top of the page at under that you will see a links to here and APM Forum, this is where our forums will migrate to over time. 

Stefan has done an excellent job of improving the functionality of the forums, making it less spammy in the process.

Its attracting questions from wiki users now and as such we need some more of the experts that hang out here to be on hand to help new users there.

The platform that this website uses is about to undergo a major change and this will give us an opportunity to make this site a little more curated with the best of peoples builds and ideas getting more attention. 

So come on over to the new forums and lend a hand. 


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SAN DIEGO, Calif., Sept. 26, 2013 — 3D Robotics, the leading open Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) company, today announced a $30 million Series B financing round. The round was co-led by Foundry Group, a new investor, and existing investor True Ventures, along with participation from existing investors O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and SK Ventures. As part of this round,  Jason Mendelson of Foundry Group will join the 3D Robotics board of directors.

This round of funding augments a late-2012 Series A round led by True Ventures and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. It will enable 3D Robotics to mainstream aerial robotics and surveying, making advanced UAV technology affordable and easy to use for its worldwide customer base of businesses and individuals. Working with its large community of users and open source developers, 3D Robotics has created the industry’s leading open UAV platform, APM, and is now extending that to a new generation of autopilots, software and ready-to-fly multicopter and fixed-wing UAVs.

As part of this funding round 3D Robotics will expand its development and deployment of advanced UAV applications, with a focus on agricultural crop mapping and other commercial aerial survey technology. “The opportunity to bring ‘big data’ to agriculture through low-cost automated aerial crop surveys could be a game-changer for both farming and the UAV industry alike,” said Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics. “Adding UAVs to the precision agriculture toolkit of a 21st Century farmer gives them the power to use imaging data to not only increase yield, but decrease water use and the chemical load in both food and environment.”

Starting in 2015, AUVSI, the UAV industry trade group, estimates that the first three years of integration of commercial drones into the national airspace will create more than 70,000 jobs in the United States with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion.  International prospects are much larger.  ”We’re building out a world-wide sales, service and support model that will help us build long-term relationships with local resellers that can in-turn support their local community requirements for mapping and imaging,” said John Cherbini, 3D Robotics VP of Sales.

3D Robotics also recently announced Iris, the company’s first ready-to-fly, fully-autonomous quadcopter for the consumer market.  The lightweight vehicle can conduct hands-off missions and record high definition aerial video, bringing pro-level UAV features at an unprecedented sub-$1,000 price. Iris is now shipping to developers, with consumer sales to begin in November.

In conjunction with Iris, 3D Robotics has extended its exclusive relationship with the PX4 team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), one of the world’s leading UAV research institutions. In collaboration with ETH, 3D Robotics has announced its most powerful autopilot to date, Pixhawk, which will ship in October.  Pixhawk is a new 32-bit open autopilot platform designed for improved ease of use and reliability while offering unprecedented safety features compared to existing solutions.

3D Robotics’ mission is to deliver reliable, easy-to-use autonomous navigation and sensing solutions to customers using land, sea or air based vehicles.  3D Robotics’ open UAV technology, which is in use by tens of thousands of customers already, delivers pro-level aerial robotics features at consumer-level prices to bring UAV applications to mainstream markets.

3D Robotics is a privately-held North American company with offices in Berkeley, San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

For more information on the company visit:

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Well its Friday and this is cool


Sorry if you have seen this before, I have been watching this one and don't think it has come up here much. No doubt for all sorts of reasons variable pitch will become popular. The aerobatics are just the half of it.

If you are having a Friday Flyday enjoy it, otherwise everyone have a safe weekend.

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Civilian Drones the Documentary


Upcoming Documentary Civilian Drones highlights The Human Toll while the U.S. NAS Integration Effort Stagnates.

The documentary produced by MahaPix Studios is sure to raise eyebrows as it exposes the viewer to the lifesaving potential of small unmanned systems. Beyond the hypothetical, the film reveals the incredible potential of unmanned technology when placed in the hands of dedicated individuals with passion and experience. Transcending the business plan, the film delves into an industry that has been crippled and waylaid by what can only be labeled a bureaucratic travesty.

(Patricks words not mine)

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Cracker Barrel Does TED

Patrick from sUAS News recently had a spot at TEDx Sacramento. All part of our ongoing effort to change public misconceptions about our industry, and to highlight beneficial applications of non-militarized systems. While some folks practice their presentations for months the Cracker Barrel and Patrick were last minute entries into the program, but all’s well that ends well.

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3D Robotics gave a sneak preview of a comparatively cheap consumer drone at an unmanned aircraft convention in San Francisco this week.

The company's new quadcopter, or four-rotor helicopter, can be controlled from a tablet running an Android flight system or other similar app. The as-yet-unnamed drone will cost about US$700 and is aimed at an audience of hobbyists, even wedding photographers, who could attach a camera to the front and get sweeping shots from the sky.

You can see an IDG News Service video of 3D Robotics engineers flying two drones here.

"I think the bigger market is people who just want to do stuff, regular people like you or I," said Brandon Basso, a research and development engineer at 3D Robotics.

Some people attending the conference were there to learn how to implement drones for search and rescue.

"I'm not saying that a person can be replaced in the cockpit yet, but you can fly some of these (drone) missions at about a tenth of the cost, and you can fly them in weather where a human pilot wouldn't be out," said Colin Loring, a volunteer search and rescue pilot from Greenville, S.C. He intends to buy a drone for his group within a few months.

Larger commercial-sized drones were displayed but not flown at the convention. Drone maker MLB brought its V-Bat UAV vertical take-off and landing drone, as well as the Super Bat, which is made of Kevlar and has cameras with target tracking and 20X zoom lenses. Prices for those drones start around $120,000.

A national drone convention is slated for Aug. 12-15 in Washington, D.C. The California event's organizers say it's possible that the D.C. meeting will have protestors demonstrating outside against military applications of drones


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sUSB Expo live streaming soon.


(Chris Anderson is the third speaker in this clip)

Kicking off at 0900 Pacific the sUSB Expo in San Francisco all things being equal live streaming should pop up on the sUAS News YouTube Channel and our G+ Group. Should the tech fail we will be recording all the speakers and putting their presentations and slides up after the show. Chris and members of the 3DR team will be among the guests.

Here’s the speaker times if you want to tune in for somebody in particular, all subject to change and slide of course. Look out on twitter @sUASNews for timetable changes.

Thursday 25th July

9:00 – 9:10 Welcome and Opening Statements – Bruce Parks, AgriFlight

9:10 – 9:30 Open for Business – Patrick Egan, sUAS News

9:30 -9:45 From the Dark Continent – Gary Mortimer, sUAS News (Skype)

9:45 – 10:15 Chris Norris, Alta Devices

10:15 -10:30 The Benefits of AUVSI Membership – Gretchen West, AUVSI

10:30 -11:00 BREAK

11:00 – 11:30 Eileen Shibley, California UAS Portal

11:30 – 12:00 Jonathan Downey, Airware

12:00 – 1:30 LUNCH

1:30 – 2:00 Tad McGeer, Aerovel

2:00 – 2:30 Seeking Fair Solutions to Public Concern over Commercial Unmanned System Use – Chad Partridge, 2D3

2:30 – 3:00 Film Production UAS Gus Calderon, IsisCopter

3:00 – 3:30 BREAK

3:30 – 4:00 ASTM F-38 Update -Ted Wierzbanowski

4:00 – 4:30 Karl Hedrick, U.C. Berkeley

4:30 – 4:45 Sean Varah, Motion DSP inc

Closing Statements

Reception sponsored by Motion DSP inc

Friday 26th July

9:00 – 9:15 Joerg Lamprecht, AIRBOTIX

9:15 to 9:45 Legal Considerations – Douglas McQueen, LeClair Ryan Law

9:45 to 10:15 Ken Giles, UC Davis

10:15 – 10:45 Lidar Demo – Wolfgang Juchmann, Velodyne Lidar

10:45 to 11:00 BREAK

11:00 – 11:30 Dr. Jerry LeMieux, Unmanned Vehicle University

11:30 – 1:00 LUNCH

1:00 – 1:30 Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics

1:30 – 2:00 sUAS for SAR – Gene Robinson, RP FLightsystems

2:00 – 2:30 Robotic Aircraft For Public Safety – Dr. John Appleby, DHS

2:30 – 3:00 BREAK

3:00 – 3:30 Douglas Hunsaker, Scaled Composites

3:30 – 3:45 Mathew Schroyer,, Drone Journalism

3:45 – 4:00 Drone Gaming – Eli D’Elia, Game Theory Robotics

Tickets at

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T3 Season 2, The Model


Its T3 time again but first I have started tagging people that have entered T3 in the past on their member icons its a very small recognition for their valuable contributions which have driven APM forward faster than it might have without the competition. They have not only put their equipment on the line discovering new ways of doing things but countless hours as well.

Unsung heroes in the development of low cost autopilots for all.

So lets get into this round.

I waste far too much time on the most excellent GEFS there could be more 3D buildings laid on top of the Google Earth base layer. Lets change that.

The last T3 challenge "The Cube" bought some really outstanding results and the natural progression from this is automated flight around a building or natural point of interest and the creation of a 3D model perhaps in 123D catch of the subject. Last November Alan Sanchez showed us how. Improvements in the multirotor code that came into play at the Sparkfun AVC will help with the flying.

This could be achieved with a fixed wing platform with a little thought.

We should have some ground rules (pun intended) you must seek permission to make a model of the building, or natural wonder! You should fly no higher than 130m and the flight should be hands off all the way and you should stay visual with the airframe at all times. Please do not create a model of something in class A airspace unless it's at a recognized model aircraft field.

The flight must be at very least autonomous from just after take off to just before landing. If you can do it all autonomously bonus points! FPV entries will not be permitted.

If you submit your model to Google Earth and get it placed bonus points when it appears on GEFS for me to fly around it. In this case the model might be skinned with images taken from the air.

This is no simple task so it should remain open for six months. Normally I tack time on at the end so to break with tradition lets start the competition on the 1st of August and run all the way to 1st Feb 2014! That gives folks the extension weeks in advance!

Prizes to be announced when I have finished twisting CA's arm. As we know he always comes good.
I am also putting out a call for volunteer judges from the ranks of previous T3 entrants to help me decide. This one is I think going to be very subjective and how attempts are documented is going to be a big factor. 

There is no doubt automated building inspection will be a part of the future for sUAS.

Good Luck, be safe


Now let the traditional but did you mean XYZ questions begin! Oh and if you are tooling around on GEFS as well look out for me as Gary sUAS News, often slope soaring ;-)

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My new favorite multirotor video


I love this video clip, hands down the best I have seen to date from a multirotor. Can you guess I am a little bored of endless reveals and pans ;-) No bits of an airframe in shot, no GoPro distortion and filming exactly what they want it to. Brilliant! Watch in HD !

The images tell the story and yes we are told its from a hexacopter but that does not really matter a story is conveyed.

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Speaking of Drones


A chance to hear Chris and other movers and shakers speak, coming up later this month in San Francisco. The 3DR team will be there with try and fly platforms as well. Yes this is a shameless sUAS News conference plug. All things being equal video should be available on G+ as it happens.

Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, as the industry refers to them, will be the focus of the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo at the San Francisco Presidio July 25 -26. Speakers from throughout the country will gather at the Presidio to speak about the huge growth potential of this multifaceted industry.

“With respect to jobs, and economic growth, the UAV industry is set to see a tremendous upswing in the next few years,” says Patrick Egan, American editor of, and one of the sponsors of the event.

“We are creating the Expo, as a gathering of minds, a place where people can gather, meet, and collaborate in order to further the growth of the industry,” he said.

Speakers will cover the spectrum of the industry, from science and technology to  government regulations and the role of startup.

Tad McGeer, one of the early founders of the industry, will describe his illustrious journey from one of the earliest forays into robotic walking to his latest small vertical –takeoff- and- landing unmanned aircraft.

Chris Norris, CEO of Alta Devices, will talk about his highly efficient (29% ) thin-film, flexible solar cells which can power multiple electronic devices including unmanned vehicles.

Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and founder of DIYDrones will speak about the manufacturing of current and future uses for small unmanned vehicles.

Dr. John Appleby, currently with the Department of Home Land Security, brings his 35 years of experience at NASA, NOAA, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the stage to provide both background and forecast for the UAV industry.

“This is going to be a very exciting and informative conference,” said startup founder Matt Kirson of, “anyone interested in this industry should be there.”

You may register for the Expo here:,  attendance is limited

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AVC 2013


Starting very shortly, 0900 Mountain AVC 2013.

Chris Anderson and co are there to be covered in glory having flown an autonomous take off then out over water to drop a tennis ball on a spit of land, fly under a hoop and finally land all without the aid of a net.

What could possibly go wrong.

Live stream here

I'm hanging out as sUASNews on twitter there.

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Hunter arrested



MBABANE – Private Investigator Hunter Shongwe has been arrested for using a spy aircraft without a valid licence or permit.

The gadget operates as a ‘floating’ camera and takes pictures of people and places without raising suspicion.  The owner of such an aircraft operates it using a hand held remote control.

Shongwe was arrested by police officers from the Hhohho Serious Crimes Unit (Lukhozi) on Tuesday afternoon.

He is alleged to have contravened the Regulations of Aviation in that he operated the aircraft without having obtained a licence.

Police Public Relations Officer Superintendent Wendy Hleta confirmed Shongwe’s arrest.
She said Shongwe is expected to appear before court today. Information gathered is that he is currently kept at the Mbabane Police Station.

According to the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) Act of 2009, all people who need to fly an aircraft for whatever purpose are supposed to obtain a licence from SWACAA. This is the same gadget which Shongwe once alleged had gone missing while flying in the direction of Somhlolo National Stadium where members of the League of Churches were arriving for the Easter services.

The small aircraft was allegedly on a mission to record everything that was happening at the stadium and surrounding areas during the services.  In a previous interview with the Times SUNDAY, Shongwe said that the spy aircraft was worth E20 000.

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T3 Qube results


This T3 round was really quite the thing. As such everybody gets a prize! Chris assures me that the 3DR T shirts are very cool. So far he has failed to produce an image of a bumpy jumper person wearing one to prove that is so.

As ever the trying was not without drama and has moved the code and thinking forward a little for all. That's what makes competitions so good for this community. Its why a hat needs to be tipped to all those brave enough to try.

The winning flight really was stunning from many angles. A great looking cube, very long flight time and all hands off to boot.

Top three prizes goto:-

1   Steve Westerfield,  AutoQuad,   longest loiter in each corner  42 minutes between 3 and 5 minutes at the corners
2   Aerhead,                AutoQuad,   a really great looking cube
3   Richard Boyhan     APM, for trying so hard.

For his efforts Steve receives an APM 2.5, Aerhead and Richard uBlox GPS modules. Many thanks to 3DR for supplying these prizes.

Also entering and receiving a T Shirt for their flights

Rob Lefebvre
Ted Van Slyck
Bruno Guerreiro
Scott Berfield

The community should raise a glass to these multirotor adventurers!

3DR will reach out to everyone with coupon codes to arrange delivery of their prizes.

From me, thank you all for entering it has restored my faith in the T3 again!

Bruno you legend, three months of RC experience and you submitted this flight.


Scott, sorry we made you crash.

We will announce the next one shortly.

Read all the stories about this round here

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Hyundai Flying Car


Not sure I have picked the right named  rotor number for this one. I called it a hexadecagon. 

A chap said of an ultralight pilot that I knew after flying over a large body of water (Irish Sea) in a very very dodgy aircraft. "Balls the size of melons and a brain the size of a pea" 

I don't think I would have sat in this, especially as the chap in the cape in the video is driving it!

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Patrick spoke with with Bryan Galusha at the recent Robotics block party and he had something to share with sUAS News.

We are excited to announce the Fighting Walrus fully-integrated RTF airframe!  This ready-to-fly airframe incorporates the features what our customers wanted most:

1.  Streaming 1080p video

2.Manual control with the iOS device

3.  Low cost Ready-To-Fly kits

The RTF Airframe will integrate with the Fighting Walrus Radio to enable an unparalleled ground station experience.  Video streams from the drone are geo-encoded and embedded into the iOS application, allowing users to monitor drone orientation and position while watching the video stream.

Full story

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One wonders what Eric Schmidt’s opinion is of the Google staff that we know using the technology. Perhaps the technology is just dandy in their hands?  The issue of regulation does need to be addressed in the USA. As ever though the shuffling of chairs and meetings to organize meetings seem to top of the agenda for the FAA.

The BBC reports:- The influential head of Google, Eric Schmidt, has called for civilian drone technology to be regulated, warning about privacy and security concerns. Cheap miniature versions of the unmanned aircraft used by militaries could fall into the wrong hands, he told the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Quarrelling neighbours, he suggested, might end up buzzing each other with private surveillance drones. He also warned of the risk of terrorists using the new technology. Mr Schmidt is believed to have close relations with US President Barack Obama, whom he advises on matters of science and technology.

“You’re having a dispute with your neighbour,” he told The Guardian in an interview printed on Saturday.

“How would you feel if your neighbour went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”

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