In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, drones keep watch for human rights violations in northern Syria, conduct inspections in Southern California, and make deliveries in Singapore.
Parrot providing Human Rights Watch with UAS and technical support
In support of Human Rights Watch’s mission of investigating human rights abuses around the world, Parrot has announced that it will provide the organization with its ANAFI drones and advanced software and technical support to help it accomplish its goals.
As part of a Human Rights Watch investigation into ISIS atrocities in northern Syria, Parrot recently provided its ANAFI drones and on-call support for piloting and technical assistance. The UAS helped capture aerial imagery and 3D data of the al-Hota gorge near Raqqa, which is a suspected mass grave site used by ISIS. Due to the dangerous terrain and steep cliffs of al-Hota, drones were the safest way to capture imagery at the bottom of the gorge.
Using data captured by the UAS, a 3D topographical model of the al-Hota gorge was created with the software Pix4D Mapper. According to Parrot, these 3D maps may be used to further investigate below the surface of the water.
“Human Rights Watch is doing incredibly important work around the world,” says Henri Seydoux, chairman and CEO of Parrot.
“We are honored to push the boundaries of how our technologies can be applied to help them in their missions.”
Parrot notes that this is the second mission it has supported with advanced drone technology and software.
SCE to use drones to conduct inspections
As part of its Wildfire Mitigation Plan, which is designed to protect against and mitigate fire ignitions that may be associated with utility infrastructure, Southern California Edison (SCE) will use drones to inspect power equipment over parts of the High Desert.
The drones will launch from and land on a mobile platform, and will be maneuvered and monitored by contractors on the ground. Once the inspections are complete, the drone footage will be downloaded, and SCE inspectors will look for equipment that needs repairs.
“The inspection work will be conducted mostly in the areas of Adelanto, Phelan, Piñon Hills and Wrightwood,” SCE spokesman David Song said via the Daily Press. “SkySkopes and BEAD are the contractors who will do the work.”
After purchasing its first drone in 2015, SCE now has 20 UAS equipped with high-tech capabilities. The UAS are capable of capturing detailed images of infrastructure, often in remote, hard-to-reach locations.
Right now, SCE has nearly 15 FAA-licensed and SCE-trained drone operators, and that number is increasing. SCE also uses contractors for inspections.
SCE is remaining mindful that many people are home during the day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the company is doing its part to ensure that residents know the nature of these operations.
“We’re reaching out ... (to) inform the public about our drones work,” Song says. “Because of COVID-19, there’s a lot of people at home and they may wonder why there’s a drone flying over their neighborhood.”
F-drones completes first commercial BVLOS drone delivery in Singapore
On April 19, F-drones completed the first commercial beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone delivery in Singapore.
The drone delivered two kilograms of vitamins over 2.7 kilometers in seven minutes to a ship managed by Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS), which is one of the world’s largest privately-owned ship managers. EPS is F-drones’ first paying customer.
“EPS has been part of F-drones' test deliveries since November 2019, when they joined the Eastern Pacific Accelerator powered by Techstars,” says Gil Ofer, the head of Open Innovation at Eastern Pacific Shipping.
“We believe their solutions will play a significant role in reducing shipping's overall carbon footprint. The successful BVLOS delivery is a milestone event, and we are extremely proud to be part of their journey.”
Launched a little over a year ago, F-drones is the first company in Singapore to receive an authorization from the aviation authority to conduct BVLOS drone deliveries to ships in Singapore. F-drones is currently using an off-the-shelf drone that can deliver five-kilogram loads over five kilometers, but the company is developing large-scale delivery drones that are fully electric and autonomous. Its goal is to use these drones to send 100-kilogram loads over 100 kilometers to ships and offshore platforms, which would help alleviate the pain of sending supplies in marine and offshore applications, which rely on small boats and helicopters.
F-drones plans to complete the development of this drone in the second half of 2021. For now, though, the company is on its third prototype, known as Hyperlaunch. Hyperlaunch would be able to deliver five-kilogram loads over 50 kilometers to ships. Once further testing is completed and improvements are made, F-drones plans to start commercial operations using the drone towards the end of this year.
“These traditional means of transport are expensive, slow, labor and carbon intensive. F-drones’ solutions can help save up to 80% of the costs, time and CO2 emissions,” says Nicolas Ang, CEO of F-drones.
“Besides being efficient, delivery drones can also reduce unnecessary human contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Compiled by Brian Sprowl, Associate Editor, AUVSI