Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- “Yeah, no …”
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Category archive: Drones
Incoming from Michael Jennings, who encountered this sign at (a?) (the?) Jodhpur Fort in Rajasthan:
Hm, what to do?
Easy. Use a drone instead.
LATER: See first comment. It’s this:
There can only be one fort like that.
Categories updated to include Architecture, History, Sport, and War.
Blog and learn.
Yesterday I did a Dezeen based posting here, and now I just did another. But when two thirds through doing it, I realised it would do just as well for Samizdata. All that needed adding was a bit of cringeing at the end to the effect that it could all be bollocks. (Everything here could be bollocks. That’s assumed.) So, Samizdata is where it went.
Are you one of my London libertarian friends. Don’t forget the talk I will be hosting at the end of this month (March 31) given by Chris Cooper, about our new robot overlords.
Another drone application hovers into view:
Yes, it’s UPS:
“This is really a vision for the future for us,” UPS senior vice president for engineering and sustainability, Mark Wallace, said in an interview with Business Insider.
The drone will work as a mechanized helper for the driver, reducing the number of miles a driver will need to drive. According to Wallace, UPS can save $50 million a year if everyone of its drivers reduces the length of their delivery routes by one mile.
UPS sees several potential usage cases for its autonomous drones. This ranges from inventory control at warehouses to the delivery of urgent packages such as medical supplies. However, this latest test is geared towards the company’s operations in rural areas where drivers have to cover vast distances between delivery points.
But all this is still some way off:
Currently, the technology [is] still in the testing phase and UPS doesn’t have an exact timeline for its introduction into service, Wallace said.
Timeline being the twenty first century way of saying: time. See also learning curve (learning); learning experience (fuck-up); etc.
I once had a job delivering number plates, in a white van, all over Britain. Much of it was lots of unassembled number plate components in big heavy boxes, to big suppliers, which we delivered direct. And the rest of the job was one-off finished number plates to motorbike shops, which the other drivers often used to deliver by posting them. I always went there direct, because I enjoyed the drive, but either way the economics of those one-off number plates was ridiculous. A drone to do the final thirty miles or so would have been most handy, if it could have been organised. (A digital camera would have been very nice also. But alas, I had to wait a quarter of a century for that.)
The serious point: drones are useful tools for running big and visible and trustable (because so easily embarrassable and controlable) businesses, for example the big and very visible enterprise that provided this. Drones are, basically, tools for workers rather that toys for funsters. They may supply fun, but they will mostly be operated by workers.
In London anyway. Things may be different out in the wilds of the countryside. But even taking photos out in the wilds of Yorkshire involves – I bet – getting some kind of permit. If not, it soon will. Because there will be complaints, and drones are highly visible.
Also audible, yes? Anyone know how noisy drones tend to be? 6K? How noisy is your drone?
I’ve been meaning to post this image here for some time:
Guess what it is. If in doubt, look at the categories list below. Then go here, to confirm what you must surely have worked out.
Many have described the event at which this happened as historic, but not because of this. But I reckon what you see in the above picture is what historians will end up being most impressed by, about this event, because it was a very public manifestation of a very impressive sort of technology, which is going to have a very big future.
Sustained gunfire rang out over central Tehran on Monday afternoon as anti-aircraft guns targeted what officials said was a drone flying over the Iranian capital.
Many residents ran to rooftops and craned their necks to see what was happening. Others sought shelter as bursts of machine gun fire echoed through the streets.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Tehran Governor Isa Farhadi as saying that the gunfire targeted a drone near restricted airspace in the capital.
It wasn’t clear who owned the drone, which he described as a quadcopter. That suggests it may have been operated by a local hobbyist or aerial photographer rather than a foreign government. The purpose of its flight also wasn’t clear.
The drone escaped - apparently intact - as Gen. Alireza Elhami, deputy chief of Iran air defense headquarters, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying the drone flew out of the restricted airspace once it came under fire.
This was not the first such recent incident.
I told you these things were going to cause a world of trouble.
How soon before there are pitched battles between squadrons of these amazing things?
This, says 6k, is going to be fun.
And it is already. One of the rules of toys is that a good toy starts being fun straight away. This one has certainly passed that test:
That’s two 6k kids and two friends of theirs, all helpfully shielding their faces, which means I feel free to borrow it.
I have been tracking the spread of drones, and noting that most of them are in the service of those who command large spaces which they wish to photo. Farmers and pop concert organisers, for example. They are not commanded by those who command only tiny spaces and wish to photo other people’s spaces. A privately owned drone, for me, in tightly packed London, in almost as tightly packed England, makes no sense, however tempted I sometimes feel to get one.
But South Africa (I was told about this last night by someone who had been there over Christmas) is a land of wide open spaces, and a privately owned drone makes sense there, provided only that you have the means to get into those wide open spaces.
I recently opined here that drones are not toys, and here, they aren’t. But in big old Africa, they can be.
Incoming from Michael Jennings: One for you.
It certainly is. Apparently, in Mexico, Uber is using drones to advertise itself, by having them hover, with signs, over traffic jams:
Drones to carry adverts, or signs. But of course. The possibilities are endless, and the probability is: lots of complaining, drone destruction, car crashes blamed on drones carrying adverts or signs, etc.
Imagine it. You are going at a speed considered too fast by the Big Computer in the Sky, so it sends a drone out to fly out in front of you, telling you to slow down or be fined. Or more probably, just telling you that you have already have been fined. Ah, modern life. Science fiction just never sees it coming.
By the way, what is that sign saying?
Well, for some, maybe they are. But not for many. Like I said, they’re a business.
Further evidence: University of North Dakota Offers Class on Starting Your Own Drone Business.
Further confirmation. My TV screen takes a while to warm up, so I often leave it on and just switch off the sound. And a moment ago, while listening to the radio, I was also watching daytime TV silently selling quite complicated looking drones at giveaway prices. A lot of money got poured into these things, to sell at around five hundred quid, in the highstreet, to people, to play around with. But these drones were today on sale for less than fifty. As individual things to have, they just haven’t caught on.
See also: 3D printers. Also not toys.
I recently photoed this van:
What intrigued me about it was its minimalist propaganda message. “GREY MOTH”.
My original thought was that, in the age of google, you don’t actually need a mass of information to find out all you want to know about an enterprise. That’s what this posting was going to be about. (I still remember fondly that van outside the Oval, which just said “VOITH”. I quickly learned all about VOITH.)
Trouble is, if the name of the enterprise is “GREY MOTH”, and you google “grey moth”, well, in addition to the GREY MOTH enterprise, somewhere in there, you get lots and lots of grey moths. (If you google “voith”, all you get is VOITH. A voith is not a regular thing, from which the VOITH enterprise merely took its name.)
Luckily, however, there was a website on the van, front and back. This website was back to front at the front, ambulance style, but I was still able to decypher it as: www.grey-moth.com, crucially including that all-important hyphen. Which, as you see, gets us where we need to be. And it turns out to be a very interesting business. I was thinking that it would be some dreary fashion enterprise, but not a bit of it. Turns out, it’s an aerial videoing business, using drones.
I’ve been keeping an eye on drones for a while. And after initially wondering if I might ever buy one, I eventually concluded: no. If you get a drone, then you will either have to take it very seriously and learn all about how to do it, and become a full-time droner, mastering not only all the technical problems of drones but also the many legal minefields that droners must walk across (safety and privacy to name but two). Or: not. And I decided: not.
Drones, in other words, are not toys. But, they are a huge business opportunity, both for businesses that can make serious use of them, like farms or pop concert promoters or movie-makers, and for people willing to master drone use for a living and to hire themselves out. Like Grey-Moth does.
Speaking of minimalist propaganda, those Guys & Dolls Unisex Hair Stylists look like they are ("UYS DOL S") on their last hair curlers, if not already gone.
As I understand it, the big reason why miniature helicopters work is because modern computer magic can control all the propellers and stop them crashing. Proper big helicopter piloting is notoriously skilful. Now, a tiny little robot can fly a tiny little helicopter, all by itself. But, first generation consumer drones are going to look very foolish to later drone-flaunters, because so big, and because they are just so clunky and dangerous.
This looks much more of a serious prospect, especially for indoors:
If that does an Enrique Iglesias to you, it will do you far less damage and do itself far less damage, not least because humans are less liable to beat it to death after it attacks them.
Regular commenter here Michael Jennings is fond of enthusing about the miraculous advances in materials technology we’ve been having lately. I bet this gizmo is a fine example, especially those propeller covers. If they’re too heavy, they sink (literally) the entire idea.
I wonder how noisy it is.
Not very, if this quicky engadget youtube review is anything to go by:
You wait a decade for videos at BMdotcom, and now two come along at once.
LATER: 6k drone blues. Maybe cancel “Lily”, and get the above?
In other more immediate and sub-sonic aviation news:
Which about tells the whole story.
Anyone trying to fly a UAV over the outdoor sets where the next installment of the Star Wars saga is being filmed in Croatia might be met by drones owned by the production company.
I knew there were such things, but it’s good to actually read about them.
The fun really starts when drones on spy missions like this are also armed, so they can fight off the drones that attack them.
Drone v drone fighting is going to be a spectacular sport, just as soon as it starts getting organised.
When me and the Transport Blog gang visited the Farnborough Air Show, way back when we did, it was good, but it felt rather antiquated. Drone v drone contests – real contests – would liven that up no end.
And I do mean eagles. Yes, it’s more fun and games from dezeen:
London’s Metropolitan Police force is considering using trained eagles to grab drones from the sky following a rise in unmanned aircraft crime ...
Next step, the drones will start shooting at the eagles.
Jemima Parry-Jones, director of the International Centre of Birds of Prey in Gloucestershire, told the BBC she thinks the idea is a “gimmick”.
Well, yes. Some journo with nothing to write asked the Met about if they’d use eagles, and the Met said yes they’d consider it. Which they no doubt did, for about five minutes. I mean, if you were an eagle, would you want to fly towards a thing with propellers? But where would fun come from if nobody could ever suggest gimmicks?
The story does throw interesting light on the fear provoked by drones, and, I think, on the reluctance of regular British people actually to want to buy these contraptions. I noted the arrival of drones in the shops, but they have not, as it were, taken off. Not in London anyway. They are strictly specialist devices, to enable the controllers of large bits of land, mostly out in the countryside, to control the land better and more cheaply.
City A.M. Is so excited that the headline writer, as of now, has decided that there is only one i in ambitious:
That headline is recycled here in case they correct it. Thereby establishing that the (more) mainstream media behave just as I do, when it comes to correcting their mistakes. Or else, alerting you to a permanently wrong headline, whichever. And I’m guessing that even if they do correct the headline, they may feel obliged to keep the link spelling as it started out.
But more to the point, this ambtious plan refers to driverless flying cars, driverless flying cars that look like this:
When I first set eyes on that picture, my reaction was: That’s not a car, that’s a drone. City A.M. agrees:
The futuristic, if slightly terrifying sounding vehicle, has been unveiled by Chinese tech company Ehang and manages to combine the top two trends predicted to dominate this year’s biggest tech show - drones and driverless cars - and claims to be the first Autonomous Aerial Vehicle in the world. Or, in other words, a driverless flying car.
Are you sceptical? I am. But City A.M. continues:
Ehang claims the 184 is already at the point of becoming a commercially selling vehicle, albeit with a £130,000-£200,000 price tag. Belive it or not, it’s not just a concept - it’s already preparing for pre-orders and plans to ship to customers this year.
Well, I’m not sure that I do “belive” it, but I would be fascinated to be proved wrong.
Bizarre new forms of transport are definitely the Thing of the New Year, here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom. I haven’t been especially looking for such things. They have merely presented themselves to me. But now, perhaps (although I promise nothing), I will start looking for such things. Anyone come across any other crazy transport stuff lately?
LATER: I googled “ambtious”, and was informed of a horse called “Ambtious Dragon”. So, some kind of Chinese neologism? But it turned out that this was a headline misprint also.
Today I had a nice surprise. I was out shopping, and saw a taxi with an advert on it that I’d not seen before, which I photoed it. But when I got home I discovered that my camera didn’t have its SD card in.
However, being a clever little camera it had stored the pictures up in its own built-in memory, and I went looking for this by attaching my camera direct to my computer with a wire. Success. I found the picture of the taxi and its advert.
And, I also found this photo inside the camera, which I had totally forgotten about, and which had been there since June 25th:
Now that’s what I call a headline. Here‘s the story.
This is one of the things I really like about digital photography. There are hundreds of things you see that are a laugh, and which you would like to be able to remember and have another laugh about later. But they aren’t worth buying, just for that second laugh. But, they are worth photoing.
Also, today, I saw a headline about how naughty persons have been using drones to get drugs into prisons. But I failed to photo this headline. I was inside Sainsbury’s, and if I had got my camera out, it might have caused a scene.
I think it must have been this story. I’ve been saying here for ages that drones were going to be trouble, as well as fun. Here is another example of drones being both fun, and incurring the wrath of our rulers, that being a story about a man taking aerial photos of things that didn’t want to be photoed.