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In the course of curating the Drone Download, it seems I come across a story or two every week that punt my reality horizon a few dozen clicks into the future. This week I came across about nine of them. Buckle up.


The great flight hype: Seems Google’s internet drones are finally about to take off. (Popular Mechanics)

And Qualcomm, the mobile tech giant who just led our Series C round, is going to be introducing AI into your smartphone — all we have to do is give it wings. “Zeroth phones aren’t going to beat chess Grand Masters or create unique culinary recipes, but they will perform basic intuitive tasks and anticipate your actions, thus eliminating many of the rudimentary steps required to operate the increasingly complex smartphone.” (GigaOm)

Parisian officials said Wednesday that witnesses and security forces reported at least five sightings of unmanned aerial devices between midnight and 6 a.m. over sensitive and well-known sites across the city. (The Guardian)

Following up on that story, here’s a great, quick listen that uses the flyover hysteria in Paris to highlight how big and primed the drone market is in France, where drone users are much larger proportionately to the country’s population when compared to other regions such as the US. (NPR)

And considering this same story from his seat at the Drone Journalism Lab, 3DR friend Matt Waite writes that, legal or no, “Journalists are going to have to understand that for the near future, flying a drone is going to be seen as a provocative act.” And he muses about what we can do about it today. (Drone Journalism Lab)

In the wake (still!) of the White House drone incident, the secret service will be conducting a series of “drone exercises.” They didn’t specify what types of drones they’d be using, or where the exercises would take place, except to note they’d be in “normally flight-restricted areas.” (Washington Post)

And there’s that word again: CBS News reports that in the first few weeks of 2015, reported drone and model aircraft “incidents” involving manned aircraft are up to about two a day — well ahead of 2014. According to the FAA, every day there have been roughly 60 reported sightings of drones from general aviation or helicopter pilots so far this year.


I know this might strike some as a little off-message for America’s largest consumer drone company, but I think we have a responsibility to lead and to relate — so here’s a compassionate and thorough essay that considers the psychological strains on military drone pilots: “You can carry on something like that for a short period of time, but eventually it’s going to wear you down. Because you’re not geographically separated from family or other social connections, there’s also often the expectation that you would continue to function and meet those demands and obligations in your personal life. And I think that then creates a bit of a double whammy.” (The Guardian)

But look! “There’s a fiery pit of lava to go explore!” (Wired)

In the 2014 Outdoor Photographer of the Year contest, photographers from around the world showcased their most impressive wildlife and natural landscape shots. The Overall Winner was Greg Whitton, for his stunning photo of the Southern Highlands in Iceland. The real news: No drone shots. Come on, folks — yeah, I’m talking to you, fiery pit of lava! (

Back to the city: The architect Liam Young is working with former Velvet Underground band member John Cale and the digital artists Field to imagine what an urban drone future might look like, with visual language based on the mechanics of machine vision. In “City of Drones,” you can fly around a city from the perspective of a drone — instead of seeing recognizable neighborhoods, buildings turn into the abstracted geometric shapes a drone would use to navigate. (FastCo)

And in NIMBY news: The Cyborg Unplug plugs into an outlet in your home or business and scans wireless signals coming from different devices. If it detects a signal from a device you haven’t authorized on your network (i.e., a drone), it shuts down the video, audio, or other information the device is capturing. (Daily Dot)

Putin must have a massive and dedicated NIMBY bureau to deal with this stuff — incredible drone footage of a Russian Air Force boneyard. (Motherboard)


This is the drone you’re looking for: The Portuguese business Tekever has successfully flown a drone controlled only by thoughts — a step that scientists say will lead to passenger-carrying airplanes steered only by pilots’ brains. Hopefully this can somewhat redeem Portugal’s already tarnished drone record… (Forbes)

And speaking of mind control, Singapore-based location-marketing firm AdNear was able to use its fleets of drones to determine a cell phone’s location and movement by collecting wireless data from passersby below. AdNear could then deliver hyper-targeted ads and other promotions as these potential customers walk past storefronts. (Forbes)

“What I am possibly even more proud of is the fact that this very challenging technological project has been done with 90% ‘Girl Power.’” Great interview with Pix4D’s Sonja Betschart about 3D-modeling the Christ the Redeemer statue. (The Drone Girl)

SkyWard — Portland, Oregon-based drone network company and 3DR partner — helps drone operators find shortcuts to getting a drone license. (Wired)

Perceptiv’s SHIFT computer vision accessory turns drones into flying dollies. (TechCrunch)