narwhal's Posts (3)

Sort by

Foreign Correspondent (ABC Documentary)


I just caught the Foreign Correspondent documentary on Drones, Rise of the machines, and I have to say it was quite balanced, it presented all the issues currently surrounding civilian UAVs quite well. It features Chris Anderson and Team Blacksheep.

I imagine it will on iView very shortly:

Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird*, it’s a plane. It’s a floating TV station streaming live to the web. It’s a prying lens snapping lucrative snaps of a celebrity party. It’s the police chasing suspects. It’s kids playing in the park. It’s a government agency keeping an eye on things. It’s all of the above.

Just as mobiles and wireless dramatically changed the way we live our everyday lives, drones are set to become the next game-changer.

"This is a powerful technology. It is real, it is coming. No amount of hand-wringing is going to stop it." PETER SINGER Drone Expert, Brookings Institution

For many onlookers, drones have been a controversial weapon prowling over foreign battlegrounds targeting enemy combatants and terrorists, often with devastating consequences for hapless civilians in the vicinity. Now as America’s military campaigns wind down many of those drones are coming home, losing the military decals and weaponry and turning their attention to porous borders, law enforcement and a myriad of civilian uses.

“The size of the industry - it’s billions of dollars. $30 billion by 2015 was one estimate I’ve seen.” CHRIS ANDERSON Editor, Wired Magazine, Drone entrepreneur.

The exponential growth is happening with smaller drones in the hands of anyone with a few hundred dollars and access to the local hobby shop. They can buy a sophisticated, unmanned aerial vehicle over the counter. Guided by GPS and tiny autopilots, hobby drones now have the ability to fly for miles providing sharp video vision directly back to the pilot. But hobbyists are one thing, some operators are defying the law and flying their drones for commercial purposes; Journalists chasing a story, real estate agents selling a house, paparazzi chasing celebrities and a big-pay day.

"Well I wouldn’t step out on your wife, that’s really the first thing. I think it will cut down dramatically on adultery. What should people do? I’d say carry an umbrella.” CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER Syndicated columnist and conservative commentator

In just three years an order from the US Congress will see tens of thousands of drones take off legally into an already crowded sky, competing for space with domestic aviation. It’s a regulator's nightmare. No one seems to know how it will be managed. Supporters see farmers and scientists at the controls. Opponents fear terrorist drones.

“There are political, legal and ethical issues that play out with this. Everything from how do we ensure rights of privacy, to what way the police should be allowed to use them, what way should they not be allowed to use them and how do we keep bad actors from utilising these technologies?” PETER SINGER Drone Expert, Bookings Institution

Read more…

Software Defined Radio


Recently Ars Technica did a piece on software defined radio, using the Phi product as a centre piece, it got me thinking about its applications for drones.

Software defined radio basically allows people to write programs which interact with radio waves on a host of different frequencies (100 kHz to 4 Ghz), what this means is instead of having a chip dedicated to GPS you could have this card in your computer and instead run a GPS program. While this may not sound like much, something that has always bothered me about my drones is my use of a third party datalink that I have limited control over, and I believe this kind of thinking is the answer. I would certainly love the ability to apply my own compression methods to my data packets and video and choose my own method to send them (i.e. on which frequencies).

I also like the ability to have different protocols opened up by simply developing the software to them rather than developing or reverse engineering the hardware. Good examples of this might be giving people the option of receiving aviation communications through UHF/VHF and interfacing to GLONASS.

Currently I see the major disadvantage to this technology is its PCIe requirement (Raspberry Pi does not support this, so a traditional motherboard with a traditionally large surface area would have to be used), and no doubt the processing power required might not be trivial.

Do you think this has potential for drones?

Read more…

Dynamic Density Airship Concept

This is an airship I designed for the UAVForge competition, it takes advantage of its ability to alter its volume (and thus its density) to take off and land. It is 6 ft long, however folds down into a rucksack.


Some interesting technology I am looking at in terms of software is the Surface From Motion 3D environment estimation

and Active Noise Control


Unfortunately I won't be able to enter into the UAVForge competition as I am travelling while their live video milestone is due, but I thought I would post it here anyway if anyone was interested.

Read more…