Category Archives: News

News – UK Drone Show 2016

New Drones


The DJI stand held two of their new models.

The Mavic Pro is a portable system with collapsible arms allowing it to fit into a small backpack. Its’ FlightAutonomy technology allows obstacle avoidance and hover precision, while ActiveTrack allows the drone to follow the subject matter with a number of different shooting modes. It comes with a 3-axis gimbal and 4K camera.

It is available for pre-order for £1,099.

The Phantom 4 Pro is an upgrade of the Phantom 4 . It improves on a number of areas of the previous drone:

  • Improved camera with a 1-inch 20 megapixel sensor from a 1/2.3 inch 12.3 megapixel sensor on the Phantom 4.
  • Stereo vision sensors on the rear of the drone in addition to the front facing ones that were on the original.
  • New infrared sensors on the left and right of the drone.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro

DJI Phantom 4 Pro

The Phantom 4 Pro costs £1,589, while a version where the remote controller has an integrated screen costs £1,819.


A new combined thermal and RGB camera for the Typhoon H drone was available.

The camera costs £1,799.

New Technologies

A number of technologies under development were on view in the Innovation Zone.


An interesting concept of combined drone and submersible, changing the type of propeller allows the drone to either fly or go underwater with the body being watertight.

Tetra Drone

Tetra Drone

Available for funding soon on Kickstarter.


An innovative modular underwater drone by van Dijk FEM engineering B.V. with a camera and a crab module for removing material from the sea bed.




Another innovative technology was droneball, which was a drone fully enclosed in a cage stabilizing system which protects the drone and its surroundings from damage as it flies around, it either fly or roll along the ground.



The droneball is getting launched on indiegogo on the 8th of December.




News – Flyt

The uses of computer vision technologies in controlling UAV flight have been mentioned in some blogs already and will be discussed in more detail in a future blog. It can provide autonomous means of flight which are difficult to replicate manually allowing the use of a UAV in agriculture, inspections, surveys, delivery or emergency response.

The means to implement computer vision technologies on UAVs has generally meant proprietary technology or a complicated open source route with the setup of hardware and the installation of a number of pieces of software before experimentation can even begin.

But the work of  Indian Navstick Labs has developed a number of products to solve these problems.


FlyTOS operating system is an application development framework built upon Linux and ROS (Robot Operating System), meaning an integration with ROS modules/libraries and sensors. It also supports the APM and PX4 (Pixhawk) open source autopilot systems.

The systems allows the development of obstacle avoidance, autonomous landing with AR tags and object recognition, tracking and following. It’s object tracking can use simple OpenCV based algorithms to detect objects using color and shape and use a Kalman Filter for tracking. It can also incorporate OpenTLD for selecting objects in a display and then following them (this was originally published in MATLAB by Zdenek Kalal).

FlytConsole and FlytVision are inbuilt on-board web apps that aid on in the creation of applications.

It comes with  a web-based control station called FlyConsole and a 3D simulator called FlytSim.

The software can be downloaded for free and installed on an ODROID XU4 companion computer.




The FlytPOD – Advanced Flight Computer is a companion computer system running the FlytOS system which is currently being funded as part of an Indiegogo project.

As well as coming with a suspended IMU for vibration damping and an external magnetometer it also supports RTK (Real Time Kinematics) GPS.

It’s USB3.0,  USB2.0, HDMI and user configurable I/Os connectors support a number of systems out-of-the-box including a Gimbal, PX4Flow (Optical Flow sensor), LiDAR (distance sensor) and USB Cameras. While the hardware interfaces on the FlytPOD support a number of specialized sensors including multi-spectral cameras, stereo cameras and LiDAR.

It is designed to be able to process photographs in the companion computer and stream them to ground.

The system comes in two models:

  1. FlytPOD Kit – uSD storage. It costs $499 ($399 in Indiegogo).
  2. FlytPOD PRO Kit –  This kit has the same features as the basic one but also offers sensor redundancy, with triple 3-axis Accelerometers and 3-axis Gyroscopes as well as double external Magnetometers, Barometers and External GPS. It also comes with the faster eMMC storage. It cost $799 ($699 on Indiegogo).

The Indiegogo funding ends on the 3rd October.

News – 3DR and Sony UMC-R10C

3DR have announced the integration of the new Sony UMC-R10C Lens Style Camera into there Solo UAV platform. This will include a custom gimbal for the camera. It will replace the current GoPro camera with one of the quality of a DSLR camera capable of taking 20MP+ photographs.

The camera appears to be similar to the Sony ILCE-QX1 discussed in a previous blog – Mirror-less Cameras and UAVs. Although the technology had great potential for use in UAVs due to the fact it does not have the body and weight of a normal camera, it had the serious limitation of not having a full manual mode. Hopefully this will be remedied in the new model.

Sony UMC-R10C

Sony UMC-R10C

The UMC-R10C is going to be released by 3DR as part of a complete mapping and processing solution called SiteScan.

It is not currently known whether the camera and gimbal will be available separately at present.

The camera will be unveiled at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in Las Vegas in April.

While the package combined with SiteScan is expected to ship in June.

Chris Anderson – InterDrone Keynote – The future of Drones

On the 9th of September Chris Anderson, the CEO of the 3DRobotics (3DR) Drone company, gave the keynote speech at the International Drone Conference and Exposition (InterDrone) Conference in Las Vegas on the future of drones.

He discussed the previous democratizing of technologies such as the personal computer and the internet which put powerful tools in the hands of normal people empowering them; and that thanks to drone development remote sensing will develop in the same direction.

With improvement satellites have the potential to reduce their costs in remote sensing by a factor of 1 in 10, while drones have the potential to reduce the costs by a factor of 4 in 10.

The reason that the mobile phone network beat satellite phones is the same reason that drones will beat satellites in recording. Drones have the ability to scale in a way that satellites cannot.

He compared the pros and cons between Satellite, manned aircraft and drones in a hypothetical recording of the American State of Kansas. His model suggested that satellites and drones would have the same setup costs; with 100 satellites costing 100 million dollars and 200,000 drones costing the same amount to capture Kansas on a daily basis.

The satellites have high maintenance costs as they are located in space, while drones have much lower costs while piloted and less when un-piloted.

Satellite Drone
Data Resolution 300 cm per pixel 3 cm per pixel
Data Received Hours Minutes

The drones have the potential to record a site on the hour every hour.
Also at any one times 2/3 of the planet is under cloud cover making the drones the much better option as they generally fly under the clouds.

He concluded that for mapping 50 hectares the satellites would be the much cheaper option, but for mapping 5 hectares the manned drone is the cheaper option, while the manned aircraft was the worst option in all cases. But autonomous drones operating as a fleet would be the better option all the way up to 500 hectares.

Autonomous Drones
With the development of autonomy drones, rather than doing things in the same way as manned aircraft they could do things in whole new innovative ways.
They could:

  • Act as unmanned sensors.
  • Record every hour on the hour.
  • Charge themselves on charging pads.
  • Be based in weatherproof boxes.

These technologies are possible now and 3DR support both swarming and fleets.

It could be possible to control 200,000 drones from a web browser a thousand miles away. Both 3DR and DJI are migrating all of their control functions to mobile devices meaning that the platforms can act as connected devices from the start.

The development of the drone can be linked with sales:

  • Drones as vehicles – 500 thousand.
  • Drones as cameras – 1 million.
  • Drones as something bigger – 10-100 million potential.

The drones have the potential to act as sensors connected to the internet almost forgetting about the device, with its data being passed to the cloud.

Potential drone uses
He discussed the potential of drones taking part in a number of the popular modern technological buzzwords:

  • Internet of things.
  • Big data.
  • Reality capture.
  • Personal storytelling.
  • The democratisation of Hollywood.
  • Video age.
  • Personal robotics.
  • Automation.
  • The new near-space race.

He also discussed how drones came about thanks to mobile phone technology and its significant investment in the research and design of the technologies which enable phones to work including GPS, accelerometers as well as their computing technology. The mobile phone industry developed these technologies which allowed the drone industry to begin. The drone is basically a smartphone with propellers.

Technological/Future Developments
With improvements in the on-board computing processing power drones now have the ability to us the Robotic Operating System (ROS) allowing the drone industry to draw on the extensive academic developments in AI (Artificial Intelligence), Computer Vision, path-finding and other technologies. With ideas from a number of different industries converging.

The Dronecode project has already brought together a number of open source drone projects under the governance of The Linux Foundation.
These include:

  • Ardupilot, PX4 and Pixhawk autopilot systems.
  • MAVLink (Micro Aerial Vehicle Communication Protocol).
  • UAVCAN is a lightweight protocol designed for reliable communication in aerospace and robotic applications via CAN bus.
  • ROS – The Robot Operating System (ROS) is a set of software libraries and tools that help you build robot applications.

Cloud based systems such as droneshare and dronedeploy allow both the control and processing of drone data from within the cloud.

Other future directions could include:

  • Advanced precision landing capabilities
  • On-board HD video streaming support.
  • Optical flow and GPS denied navigation.
  • Standardized vision processing.
  • Obstacle detection and avoidance (LIDAR, IR/thermal).
  • Out-of-the-box Search and Rescue capabilities.

The drone has become possibly the most complex consumer product outside of the car industry, and continues to evolve.

3D Printing and the UAV

3D printing provides a cheap method of creating objects from 3D computer model files. This, together with recent development in the field, have great potential for the future of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry.

3D Printing Parts
Many ready built UAVs can be purchased off the shelf configured to work with a number of different cameras building, but DIY systems can require parts that are not available from traditional sources. This is where the Maker community can come in, whether providing 3D models on such sites as Thingiverse to be 3D printed yourself or at a number of 3D printing shops; or providing ready 3D printed objects over the internet.

Among the objects that are useful to be 3D printed for UAVs are camera specific mounts and mounts for radio antennas. Complete 3D printed UAV frames are also possible.

Recent Developments
Until recently the materials that could be printed were limited, namely only thermoplastics or UV resins for the UAV body, recent developments have allowed the printing of everything from metal to human tissue and organs and even food; opening up whole new potential areas of use.

One example is the research by Dr. Jennifer A. Lewis, a founder of the Voxel8 company and Harvard University professor, which has led to 3D printers being able to print circuits such as the Voxel8 3D Printer developed by her company.

Conductive Ink Printing

Conductive Ink Printing

The Voxel8 3D Printer ships towards the end of the year.

Future developments planned by Voxel8 include the development of inks that are capable of printing resistors, sensors and even lithium ion battery cells.

In collaboration with Autodesk they have developed the Project Wire software which allows everything from design through to machine control of electrical circuits.

Autodesk Project Wire

Autodesk Project Wire

3D Printers have already been used for printing UAV components, but these recent developments open up the possibility of 3D printing almost complete UAVs in the near future. This would allow for UAVs specific to a task to be designed and printed on demand without the requirement of expensive manufacturing practices.

It would also link in with the idea of drones owning themselves, discussed in a previous blog, with the drones being able to print replacement or upgrade components straight from a 3D printer.

Drones Owning Themselves

On BBC Radio 4’s program FutureProofing of the 16th September the software developer Mike Hearn discussed the potential of cars and drones owning themselves. His ideas build upon collaborative open ventures such as Apache and Linux.

The cars could act as autonomous one machine businesses which would charge people for rides, then from the profits they could buy fuel, repair themselves and even buy upgrades. They would begin as a new car from a factory but would then become self sustaining/financing with even the ability to purchase a new upgrade car from the factory. Hearn suggests if the autonomous vehicles owned themselves they would provide cheaper fairs than those owned by major corporations.

This links in with the ambitious plans in the Finnish capital Helsinki to provide a ‘comprehensive, point-to-point “mobility on demand” system’ allowing people to purchase transportation options directly from a phone app linking in with availability of everything from driver-less cars, taxis, buses, bikes and ferries on the required route. This could potentially do away with the requirement of car ownership within the city by 2025 by beating it on cost and convenience.

More details of the car aspect of the idea can be found in an article at the BBC News Website.

He also discussed the potential for the development of delivery services for packages and parcels by drones; where the drones would sell their services to people or companies and use the money earned to maintain themselves. If demand in area was reduced they could move to an area with more demand.

Amazon are currently developing their Amazon Prime Air drone package delivery service.

Wile the first drone delivery took place in the USA in July.

With the growing importance of drones within archaeological recording this has great potential to make it easier and cheaper for companies to employ this kind of technology without the significant outlay that is required. Drones with a number of different recording packages could be setup in useful locations around the country. They could then be employed by a company or individual for a purpose and transported to the site by the individual who pays for their services. The drone would be paid and would use the finances to pay for charging, repairs and upgrades.

This could obviously go one step further with the introduction of driver-less vehicles; with the drone being based in a vehicle which deploys it to the required location, contains the software required for the processing of the data recorded and its control interface.

The ideas of Mike Hearn are only a “thought experiment” and he is not involved in their development, although he is closely involved with the Bitcoin virtual currency which could be used as a method for the drone to pay for itself.

Microsoft HoloLens

The HoloLens was originally announced on 21 January 2015.

But it was the systems appearance at the E3 expo in America that demonstrated its abilities, including those for playing minecraft in an innovative way.

Although similar in appearance to Virtual Reality goggles the system works in a completely different way, by projecting virtual components (holograms) into a view of the real world, this is called Augmented reality.

It is believed that the HoloLens will cost between £300-£600. It is not likely that it will be available before 2016.

This system has great potential for a number of areas within Archaeology and Cultural Heritage including virtual museums, where 3D recreations of artifacts are visible to the viewer next to fragments. Or for site tours/or visits to sites of historical interest where a 3D recreation model of the site is visible on top of the excavated remains.

Those who have used it have suggested that it has a limited field of view for the Immersive elements. And it is quite expensive.