Amazon’s Real Future Isn’t Drones. It’s Self-Driving Trucks – DAVEY ALBA. 12.20.16. 1:59 PM


DJI Phantom 4 Pro: Price and Details | BRENT ROSE 11.15.16 5:30 PM

DJI’s Phantom line of consumer drones is the 800-pound gorilla of the industry. And now, the company’s latest flying machine, the Phantom 4 Pro, looks like it’s poised to be the new king of the skies.phantom-4-pro_5-1024x768

The Phantom 4 Pro is an upgrade from last year’s Phantom 4. You can now fly a full 31 miles per hour while obstacle avoidance is engaged. Previously, if you wanted to go that fast, you had to put the drone into Sport Mode, which disengaged crash avoidance. It has rear sensors now, too, so you have obstacle avoidance even when you’re backing up. A new return-to-home feature retraces the path it originally took (more or less), so there’s even less chance of it crashing if you lose you connection with the remote (plus, obstacle avoidance will be engaged). It’s debuting infrared sensors, too, and even more angles—basically, you now have to try pretty hard to actually crash the thing. All of this, plus the flight time has been bumped to a generous 30 minutes.

The onboard camera now has an upgraded 1-inch sensor with 20-megapixel still photo capabilities. That larger sensor gives it 11.6 stops of dynamic range, which should keep your shots looking great even when your subject backlit (think sunset landscape). It can shoot 4K at speeds of up to 60 frames per second and bitrates of up to 100Mbps.

There’s an option for a more advanced remote with a built-in 5.5 inch touch display, which is all kinds of awesome. DJI promises lower latency of the video streaming from the video. (The touchscreen remote is one of the things I loved about the GoPro Karma remote—I’ve always hated dealing with pairing a device with the remote.) You can draw a path on the touchscreen, and the drone will follow that path like it’s on a rail. You can repeat that again and again, too. The TapFly feature can now go forward or backward (thanks to those rear obstacle sensors) so you can do automatic reveal shots.

Pre-orders begin today. The Phantom 4 Pro will go for $1,500 will require you to attach your own phone or tablet to the remote to use as a screen. If you want build-in display then get the Phantom 4 Pro+ for $1,800. Pricey on both counts, but dang they look sweet. DJI says orders will begin shipping next week.

Inspire 2

DJI upgraded another one of its flagship drones today. The Inspire 2 is the new DJI drone meant to appeal to professional filmmakers. The Inspire 2 is roughly the same size as the original. It still does the very cool (and kind of creepy) midair Klingon Bird of Prey transforming bit, which keeps the rotors out of the way of your shot.

The new drone can stay aloft for up to 27 minutes—up from roughly 18 minutes on the original. DJI also borrowed from its own Phantom 4 and put obstacle avoidance sensors on the Inspire 2, which is reassuring considering how big it is and how fast it can go: top speed is now 67 mph, and it go from zero to 50 in four seconds.

Camera options have been upgraded too. There’s the Zenmuse X5S, which is an upgraded Micro Four Thirds sensor capable of 20.8 megapixles. It can shoot 4K 60fps, and it has 12.8 stops of dynamic range. It can shoot RAW photos at 20 shots per second, which is extremely impressive. It has more than half a dozen swappable lenses, too, so you have a lot of options for angles. Another option is the Zenmuse X4S which is a 1-inch sensor that shoots 20-megapixel stills, but it can crank shutter speeds nice and high.

Preorders for the Inspire 2 start today for $3,000, and it will ship in December. Spendy! But if you’re an indie production company with some cash burning a hole in your pocket, this will probably be the standard-bearer for prosumer drones going forward.

US drone strike kills key al-Shabab leader in Somalia – Spencer Ackerman Friday 1 April 2016 17.42 EDT

Pentagon press secretary, said an airstrike conducted on Thursday targeted Hassan Ali Dhoore, a ‘senior leader’ of the Somali terror group al-ShabaabUS military Somalia strikes

A US drone strike in Somalia has killed a key leader of the al-Shabab militant group who was involved in two attacks in Mogadishu more than a year ago, killing Americans, several US officials said on Friday.

It was the US military’s second strike in a month on terrorist targets in Somalia, a country against which the US has never declared war.

Hassan Ali Dhoore and two others were killed in the strike Thursday about 20 miles (32 kilometres) south of Jilib in southern Somalia not far from the Kenyan border, the officials said.

They said Dhoore helped facilitate a deadly Christmas Day 2014 attack at the airport and a March 2015 attack at the Maka al-Mukarramah hotel, both in the Somali capital. US citizens were among those killed in the attacks, the officials said.

On 5 March, US-piloted warplanes and drones attacked a Somali training camp for al-Shabaab, killing more than 100 people. While the exact death toll is disputed, according to an eyewitness and other local sources contacted by the Guardian, the strike was likely the single most lethal conducted by the US for a counterterrorism operation since 9/11.

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White House Will Reveal How Many People the U.S. Has Killed With Drones – by Clay Dillow MARCH 7, 2016, 4:12 PM EST

A breakdown of terrorist and civilian deaths.

A breakdown of terrorist and civilian deaths.

A senior White House aide said Monday that the White House will soon disclose how many terrorism suspects the U.S. has killed via drone strikes since President Obama took office, marking the first such disclosure surrounding the controversial program.

Lisa Monaco, a counter-terrorism and homeland security adviser to President Obama, said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations Monday that the increased transparency will help shore up public support for the administration’s use of lethal drone strikes. While there’s no set date for the release of the data—which tallies drone deaths going back to 2009—it will happen in the “coming weeks.”

“Not only is greater transparency the right thing to do, it is the best way to maintain the legitimacy of our counter-terrorism actions and the broad support of our allies,” Monaco said. She also noted that the report will continue annually, though with less than a year left in office, it remains unclear if the next administration will continue the practice.

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Official data surrounding the use of lethal drone strikes by the U.S. Air Force and the C.I.A. has been virtually non-existent in the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001 when drone strikes became an accepted and now often common method of striking at terrorism suspects abroad. Human rights groups have long called for two U.S. administrations to release more data about the drone program, including how decisions are made with respect to approving targets and how many civilians have been killed as a consequence of the strikes.

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Report: Obama Administration Makes ‘No Progress’ On Drone Program Transparency – Carrie Johnson February 23, 2016 12:01 AM ET

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, carrying a Hellfire missile, lands at a secret air base after flying a mission in the Persian Gulf region on Jan. 7.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, carrying a Hellfire missile, lands at a secret air base after flying a mission in the Persian Gulf region on Jan. 7. — John Moore/Getty Images

The Obama administration has made “virtually no progress” to increase transparency and accountability for its lethal drone program, a new report has concluded, with only months left to spare before the White House hands control of the targeted killing apparatus to a successor.

The report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center said the administration is failing to release fundamental information about the program or to significantly overhaul it — even after a 2015 strike mistakenly left American contractor Warren Weinstein and Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto dead.

“We have seen relatively few successes,” said Rachel Stohl, a researcher at the center. “The administration has been unwilling to provide the number of strikes, even in aggregate; the number of civilian casualties that they estimate that have occurred because of those strikes; the legal justification, unless required by court order, that allows the program to continue; so even on the most basic levels, what is the program doing, we don’t know.”

A bipartisan task force called on the White House nearly two years ago to reconsider its reliance on targeted killing of suspected terrorists, in part, because the strikes may be doing more harm than good by fomenting hatred overseas. But Stimson researchers said they’ve uncovered little evidence anything like that reorientation has happened.

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Raffaello D’Andrea: Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future – Filmed February 2016 at TED2016

When you hear the word “drone,” you probably think of something either very useful or very scary. But could they have aesthetic value? Autonomous systems expert Raffaello D’Andrea develops flying machines, and his latest projects are pushing the boundaries of autonomous flight — from a flying wing that can hover and recover from disturbance to an eight-propeller craft that’s ambivalent to orientation … to a swarm of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters. Prepare to be dazzled by a dreamy, swirling array of flying machines as they dance like fireflies above the TED stage.