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Question of the week

I was lucky enough to spend a few days last week at the prestigious Eddie Adams photojournalism workshop in the foothills of the Catskills. The trees were basically on fire with fall, a welcome change from Austin, where it’s truthfully still over ninety nearly every day.

We brought a Solo with us, and it was a hit. Most of the college-age crowd knew a lot about drones already, and many of them wanted to get their thumbs on the sticks. We — and they — got some really interesting video, and I’ll soon be dropping a long-form blog on the whole experience.

But the weekend also raised the question of what a camera drone’s core competency really is — video or stills? How do you primarily use your flying cameras? Do you find your drone particularly suited to one medium? Why? Let me know in the comments below.

And now, the top stories from last week.


Last Friday a man crashed his drone by the Washington Monument at 1:30 am and was fined — get this — eighty-five bucks. (The Washington Post)

After rejecting three drone privacy bills last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law preventing paparazzi from flying drones onto private property to take a picture or make a recording. The bill explicitly extends the definition of “physical invasion of privacy” to include drones. (LA Times)

After an Amtrak derailment a couple of weeks ago, authorities in Vermont used a drone to get critical aerial imagery to help them respond to and document the incident. Here’s how they did it. (Slate)

Culture and commentary

A new anti-drone gun makes shotguns look positively antediluvian. The gun (it really looks like a gun) uses intense radio pulses to confuse the drone into thinking it’s gone out of range; the drone will then enter into one of its failsafe modes, either hovering, returning to home or landing where it is. However, because the weapon uses radio frequencies governed by the FCC, it can currently only be used by the federal government. Back to your pitchforks and torches. (Motherboard)

Here’s an in-depth profile of Ismail Morina, the man who incited a riot in an Albanian soccer stadium by flying a drone bearing the Albanian nationalist flag over a Serbian team. (NY Times)

Here’s a look at the drone air traffic control systems NASA is now developing, scheduled to be tested by the FAA early next year. (KQED)

A team of rivals: Facebook and Google are joining forces to begin integrating their high-altitude internet-delivery drones into the airspace. (Technology Review)

High tech

A team of teammates: A group at ETH Zurich is pairing rovers with aerial counterparts who can use their birds-eye perspective to help the rovers navigate unfamiliar territory. (Mashable)

A new concept car from Rinspeed features a drone landing and charging dock. It’s more of a promotional stunt and probably not going to be developed, but — shameless self-promotion — I gave SlashGear my thoughts on the plausibility of the concept anyway. (SlashGear)

A new meaning to “flight of stairs”: A project at MIT is developing furniture drones, turning household objects into “flying smart agents.” (Motherboard)

Researchers in Singapore have discovered a way to use drones and smartphones to intercept documents sent from a computer to a Wifi printer. The project was originally intended to develop a way for companies to discover if drones were being used to hack their systems — turns out the cure is just as bad as the disease. (Wired)

The USDA is experimenting with using drones to bomb cotton fields with irradiated moths. Moths are notoriously destructive to cotton, but the hope here is that the moths already in the field will mate with these sterile moths and produce sterile offspring, cauterizing population growth. (Popular Science)

DARPA is developing drones that self-destruct after completing their mission. The drones’ wings will dissolve, just like the wings of Icarus in Greek mythology. And yes, the program is called ICARUS. It’s a full-out acronym and everything. (Popular Science)

Qualcomm (a 3DR investor) believes its new Snapdragon Flight processor for drones will one day make fully functioning 4K camera drones cheaper than brand-name smartphones. (The Verge)


Not for the faint of heart: A man flies a drone into a rattlesnake pit. First, this death hole seems to actually exist naturally in the real world, so good luck to those walking anywhere in Texas outside the city limits of Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antone. Second, he tries to provoke the clearly agitated snakes by flying the drone right in their faces — which, even if they’re rattlesnakes, strikes me as cruel — who predictably attack and bring the drone down into their writhing hell-ditch of poison. Then he retrieves the drone with a hockey stick. “Game on, Wayne!” “Game on, Gahhhhhhhh snakes!” (Daily Dot)

Flyability posted a very cool video of its Gimball drones — housed in protective cages — lit with LEDs and bouncing around a forest at night. The company’s drones won the first annual international “Drones for Good” prize. (IEEE Spectrum)

Can’t miss: Simply gorgeous footage of autumn leaves in Vermont. (Mashable)