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Despite crackdown, there’s a new Apple Park drone video

August 17, 2017 - 9:26am

A new drone video shows work continuing on Apple Park, including progress on landscaping, despite reports that the company was attempting to prevent such flyovers.

Over the summer, several drone operators said that Apple had hired security guards for adjacent sites to warn them not to fly their drones over the company’s new headquarters. At the time, it did not appear Apple Park had been declared a no-fly zone by the Federal Aviation Administration. Still, some drone operators who had been posting construction progress videos said they would stop.

But today, Matthew Roberts of Maverick Media posted a new video update:

The video doesn’t look remarkably different from others shot in recent months, though it appears more trees have been planted and that construction crews continue to put the finishing touches on some buildings. It’s not clear what day of the week the video was actually shot, but there is no visual evidence of Apple employees on the site, so perhaps it was made over a weekend.

Read more: A look at Apple’s insanely ambitious tree-planting plans for its new spaceship campus

No doubt, the drones would be an annoyance for Apple. From the beginning, Apple Park was intended to offer a high degree of security and privacy for employees, more so than the current open campus on Infinite Loop where the public can walk right up to the buildings.

Of course, Apple Park was designed before consumer drones became so popular. For years now, drone operators have been charting the progress of the campus’ construction.

With employees reportedly moving in, it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple wanted to halt the practice.

DJI beefs up drone security after U.S. Army ban

August 14, 2017 - 9:48pm

(Reuters) — Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd is tightening data security on its drones after the U.S. Army ordered its members to stop using DJI drones because of “cyber vulnerabilities,” a company official told Reuters on Monday.

The privately held Shenzhen-based company is speeding deployment of a system that allows users to disconnect from the internet during flights, making it impossible for flight logs, photos or videos to reach DJI’s computer servers, Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI, said in an interview.

The security measure had been in the works for several months but DJI said it is bringing it out sooner than planned because of an Army memo earlier this month that barred service members from using DJI drones.

DJI said it has not had any communication with the Army about the issue. The Army had no immediate comment. The other branches of the military have not banned the use of drones by DJI, the largest consumer drone maker with millions of the devices sold.

“The Army memo caused customers to express renewed concern about data security” and prompted DJI to speed up data security changes, Schulman said.

Some drone pilots choose to share images and video with DJI, which makes them visible on its SkyPixel website. But many businesses and government customers have raised concerns about sensitive video and pictures – such as movie footage or images of critical infrastructure – and want to ensure it is never sent to DJI, he said.

DJI said it does not collect images, video or flight logs from users unless they share them. But turning on the new “local data mode” will prevent accidental syncing with DJI’s servers. Its drones do not rely on an internet connection to fly.

Cutting the link between the internet and DJI’s controller apps that run on tablets and mobile phones will disable updates of maps, flight restrictions and other data that the controller application receives from the internet while the drone is in use, he said.

Schulman said DJI plans to make updates to its controller applications available by the end of September, earlier than previously planned. The new apps with local data mode may not be available in all countries if there are regulations that require pilots to have the most updated maps and information.

DJI had about 70 percent share of the global commercial and consumer drone market, analysts at Goldman Sachs and Oppenheimer estimated in 2016.

Goldman analysts estimated the market, including military, to be worth more than $100 billion over the next five years.

U.S. Army halts use of DJI drones due to concerns over ‘cyber vulnerabilities’

August 8, 2017 - 1:38am
DJI drone

(Reuters) — The U.S. Army has ordered its members to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI because of “cyber vulnerabilities” in the products.

An Aug. 2 Army memo posted by sUAS News and verified by Reuters applies to all DJI drones and systems that use DJI components or software. It requires service members to “cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media and secure equipment for follow-on direction.”

The memo says DJI drones are the most widely used by the Army among off-the-shelf equipment of that type.

DJI said in a statement that it was “surprised and disappointed” at the Army’s “unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision.”

The privately held company said it would contact the Army to determine what it means by “cyber vulnerabilities” and was willing to work with the Pentagon to address concerns.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs and Oppenheimer estimated in 2016 that DJI had about 70 percent share of the global commercial and consumer drone market. Goldman analysts estimated the market, including military, to be worth more than $100 billion over the next five years.

The Army was considering issuing a statement about the policy, said Army spokesman Dov Schwartz.

The move appears to follow studies conducted by the Army Research Laboratory and the Navy that said there were risks and vulnerabilities in DJI products.

The memo cites a classified Army Research Laboratory report and a Navy memo, both from May as references for the order to cease use of DJI drones and related equipment.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk wants to bring drone services to businesses worldwide

July 24, 2017 - 4:41pm

Drones have taken the world by storm since they went mainstream a few years ago. They’re dramatically cheaper to buy and far easier to use than any other type of powered aircraft, making them increasingly popular in the world of aerial photography.

Just last year, the FAA loosened regulations on commercial drone use in the US, allowing businesses to provide drone services to other organizations and creating huge potential for drone adoption in the agriculture, construction, energy and insurance industries.

“The consumer and government industries for drones are multi-billion dollar industries, and yet the commercial industry for drones has just started taking off,” said Michael Chasen, the CEO of PrecisionHawk.

PrecisionHawk is one of the foremost leaders in the fledgling commercial drone space. It supplies the hardware (drones and sensors), the software (flight programs and analytics) and the services (pilots and consultation) to its clients. An insurance adjuster, for example, can purchase a drone, survey a property and receive help interpreting the data they gather all from one provider.

PrecisionHawk has raised $29 million from Verizon VenturesIntel CapitalMillennium Technology Value Partners and several other corporate venture capital firms. Chasen has also established a strong relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and taken an active leadership position to identify and secure the rules and regulations of utilizing drone technology.

Watch Chasen’s pitch for PrecisionHawk below to learn how the team plans to bring end-to-end drone services to companies around the world:

Drones + analytics = unique business insights

The commercial applications for drones are many and varied, but the most popular so far is for crop surveying in agriculture. Farmers can use drones equipped with a variety of imaging sensors to quickly and easily survey their land, determine crop yield and identify problem areas.

PrecisionHawk’s hardware and flight software are useful tools for many commercial enterprises , but the analytics software is arguably the most valuable component of its drone system. The algorithm library (sold as a separate subscription) includes many agriculture-related apps as well as cross-industry apps for orthomosaic images, 3D modelling and volume measurements, to name a few.

The company’s consulting teams frequently help clients understand how they can integrate their data into business processes to improve products, and some customers are hiring PrecisionHawk’s developers to write custom analytics.

“Our clients don’t have pre-canned analytics yet, so they’re looking for us to gather the data and use our base analytics, and they’re also hiring us to write very specific analytics for the problems they’re encountering,” Chasen said.

A competitive lead—but not uncontested

PrecisionHawk has a sizable lead over other commercial drone service providers because the team has worked one-on-one with the FAA and other regulatory bodies to establish rules and regulations for utilizing drone technology. As such, it’s currently the only company of its type in the US whose operators are permitted to fly drones beyond visual line of sight, which is useful for clients who need to survey very large tracts of land or hazardous terrain.

However, PrecisionHawk’s many competitors will likely acquire these same permissions as they grow and establish relationships with the FAA. As the commercial drone industry becomes more sophisticated and saturated, other service providers could pose potential challenges for PrecisionHawk.

However, PrecisionHawk’s greatest strength is its diversity of services. Even if a competitor beats out PrecisionHawk in one type of solution or one industry, the team currently has the flexibility to easily shift focus to another market and establish a dominant presence there.

The global future of drone technology

Even if competition becomes fierce in coming years, Chasen reports a $5 billion domestic market and $38 billion global market that can benefit from PrecisionHawk’s products and services. The company already has an international presence, with offices in Canada, Argentina, Australia and the UK in addition to its headquarters in Raleigh, NC.

Since its founding in 2011, Precision Hawk has processed over 8 million acres of land, and its customers include global brands like Monsanto, DuPont, Chevron, Verizon, Pepsico and Yamaha. The team is also continuing to work with the FAA and NASA to address traffic management concerns surrounding the integration of drone fleets into the national airspace.

In a recent pitch for PrecisionHawk, Chasen evoked The Jetsons as an illustration of the expansive role he believes drones will soon have in our world. If his prediction is correct, then PrecisionHawk could be a key company leading us towards that future.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.

Big opportunities in drone software: $565 million and climbing

July 22, 2017 - 9:10am


This year drones have turned from buzzword to a mature technology, bringing value across many industries (see the recent Economist long read on that) and representing an interesting investment opportunity. A number of VC firms have already jumped in, putting $454 million into 100 deals in 2016 alone, and both the amount of funding and the number of deals are on the rise, according to CB Insights.

However, the hardware side of the drone ecosystem is becoming oversaturated. China’s DJI clearly dominates the market, and other Chinese manufacturers, Yuneec and Ehang, have raised significant funding ($60 million and $42 million respectively), while new incumbents have failed to deliver their products to the market.

So the big opportunities for investors at the moment are in drone-related software.

There are two basic categories of drone software startups: vertical and horizontal. Vertical-focused startups target one particular industry, such as construction or agriculture; horizontal companies aim to build a platform for customers across industries.

The companies

I’ve identified the 30 startups I believe are the most promising ones — see the image at the top of this post. From this group we see the following statistics:

  • Drone software companies have raised $565 million from VCs to date. $349 million of that has gone to vertical-focused companies, with the other $216 million going to horizontal companies. (note that some of the companies I’ve counted here under the “software” label are actually full-stack firms that develop both software and hardware, such as Precision Hawk,  3D Robotics, and Kespry.)
  • The vertical-focused segment is also more crowded than the horizontal segment, with 20 vertical-focused companies compared to 10 horizontal ones.
  • Among vertical-focused companies, those targeting construction and mining (which is the hottest drone-related market at the moment) face the most competition, with eight startups, ranging from cash-loaded heavyweights 3D Robotics, Skycatch, Kespry, and Redbird (which have pulled in $178.78 million, $41.67 million, $28.35 million, and $3.19 million respectively) to ambitious new entrants TraceAir,  Datumate, Unearth, and Dronomy.
  • Agriculture was supposed to be a hot segment for drones but is progressing more slowly than other verticals. Still it features some notable companies, specifically Precision Hawk, Slantrange, and Gamaya. This segment has raised just $55.4 million compared to the $260.4 million raised by startups targeting construction and mining.
  • The most notable horizontal companies are Airware and DroneDeploy. They were founded at the beginning of the drone era (2011 and 2013) and have raised significant funding ($31 million and $109.55 million to date). Both companies have taken a full-stack approach and adjusted for the needs of various industries. For instance, Airware acquired Redbird, a construction-focused company previously funded by Airware’s VC arm, Commercial Drone Fund, and DroneDeploy launched App Market, an app store where the company can expand its initial platform with industry-tailored solutions from third-party developers, including Autodesk and John Deere. It’s also worth mentioning that new incumbents Hangar and Propeller Aero are backed by prominent investors, including Lux Capital and Accel Partners.
The investors

Drone software startups have drawn the attention of both top-tier VC funds, such as Andreessen Horowitz, GV, KPCB, Accel Partners, First Round, and Lux Capital, and corporate investors, such as Intel Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Microsoft Ventures, Sony, and Airbus Ventures

Moreover, along with investments, we’ve already seen M&As in the market, such as Verizon’s acquisition of Skyward and Airware’s purchase of Redbird mentioned above.

Vertical-focused companies appear to be more attractive than horizontal companies to investors at the moment, and here is why:

First, vertical-focused companies take less time to validate product-market fit in their target geographies and industries (or to decline one hypothesis and move on to testing another one) as each industry has its own specific use cases and requirements. Ivan Lvov, go-to-market lead at TraceAir told me, “Deep understanding of customers’ needs is what makes a great product and ultimately helps achieve product-market fit. Even if this understanding is manifested in small nuances, they make a great difference. That’s why I believe it’s extremely hard to create a successful horizontal solution, and a startup is better off by going vertical.”

Shahin Farshchi, partner at Lux Capital, which has invested in five drone companies, including AirMap and Hangar, also supports this view. Now that the foundation has been built for “cheap, abundant, and inter-connected drones,” he said, it is up to “amazing founders to identify nascent applications … These founders will choose verticals that can be worth billions annually, where they have an unfair advantage and have built a deep relationship with customers in those verticals.”

Meanwhile, the horizontal platform approach requires significant marketing efforts to educate customers in each industry on potential benefits, which involves extra costs. And given that new platform players will be facing off against cash-loaded incumbents like Airware and DroneDeploy, the challenge of claiming a piece of the market is especially difficult.

Second, there are more viable exit opportunities for vertical-focused companies. One option is an acquisition by a large corporate in the vertical the startup targets. Vertical-focused companies, after all, have industry-specific competencies and know-how, making them much more attractive than horizontal ones. Verizon’s acquisition of Skyward is a good example here.

Another option is consolidation. Platform companies are acquiring vertical-focused ones to bring more capabilities to their portfolio. Airware’s acquisition of Redbird is an example of this.

We are also seeing vertical-focused companies eyeing expansion into other verticals. Kespry CEO George Mathew told me his company was focused on the “multi-billion dollar market opportunity across mining, aggregates, construction, insurance, and energy sectors,” for example.

I expect competition between platform and vertical-focused companies to increase going forward.

Valery Komissarov is a VC at Skolkovo Foundation, a government-backed firm based in Moscow,  where he covers spacetech and drone companies. He previously worked at space startup Sputnix. You can follow him on Twitter: @Val_Komissarov.

LG uses Augmented Pixels’ sensor for better robot navigation and VR tracking

June 20, 2017 - 9:00am

Augmented Pixels has created a new way to navigate using computer vision, and LG Electronics is announcing today it has built a 3D camera module that uses that technology to assist autonomous robots.

Palo Alto, California-based Augmented Pixels, a computer vision research and development company, calls the technology SLAM, or simultaneous location and mapping. It is targeting SLAM at robots, drones, AR, and VR.

The module can also be used for inside-out tracking for augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. That means that it figures out the position of the headset using a camera that is on the headset.

“Augmented Pixels currently has the fastest proprietary SLAM for mono and stereo cameras, as well as sensor fusion and technologies for autonomous navigation (obstacle avoidance, point cloud semantics, etc.) on the market,” said Vitaliy Goncharuk, CEO of Augmented Pixels, in a statement. “All our systems are hardware-agnostic, but our clients require a complete solution, that combines computer vision software with hardware. Our partnership with LG Electronics allows us to come up with a very efficient solution for markets of AR Glasses and Home Robotics.”

LG Electronics has designed a compact module consisting of a stereo camera, IR, and processor on board that aims to optimize high performance against low power consumption. It can be customized for different hardware platforms and use cases. Augmented Pixels provides software for autonomous navigation (obstacle avoidance, point cloud semantics, etc.), based on its proprietary SLAM technology.

Yun Sup Shin, principal engineer at LG Electronics, said in a statement, “We are very excited to be working with Augmented Pixels to offer the customers the exact technology they need. The single module that incorporates our camera and SLAM technology is an efficient solution in terms of performance and pricing. It can satisfy requirements of many manufacturers of robots and AR/VR systems, who are looking for effective ways to incorporate enhanced computer vision into their products. Our compact module has a processor, so all algorithms and software running on board provide flexibility to our customers and remove a lot of limitations based on limited calculation power of consumer devices.”

How tech took over Father’s Day

June 18, 2017 - 3:30pm
DJI drone


What did you buy your dad for Father’s Day this year? Did you purchase a tie or fishing rod? Or did you looking to the tech industry to fulfill your needs? According to Time, some of 2017’s most popular Father’s Day gifts are items like drones and gaming chairs. This is a huge turn from the more traditional items like tools and clothing, which don’t show up on the list. Clearly, we have entered a new era in which we know that our fathers are more technologically advanced and want to enjoy themselves. This is an active shift in masculinity among our immediate preceding generation.

When I was young, I can vividly recall my dad having no idea how to set up our Nintendo 64 that my brother and I begged him for. I’m pretty sure we ended up doing it ourselves. My dad, an avid craftsman whose military background prompts him to wake up at 5 a.m. every day, couldn’t understand why we would want to sit inside and play video games instead of going fishing with him at the crack of dawn. He would lecture us about how when he was a kid, he would leave his house at 7 in the morning and come back at 7 at night. He was a survivor, an outdoorsman, a total badass. It made no sense to him that we were more interested in playing video games like Mario Kart and Donkey Kong than playing with sticks in the woods.

Well, this same guy now has more games on his iPhone than he does contacts.

The point is; the idea of the manly man has changed drastically since my childhood. The idea that dads aren’t supposed to have fun has evolved into the “dad is mom’s oldest child” stereotype. This is a positive change and one that we encounter daily. When you hear the word “masculinity” you probably think of actors like John Wayne and Bruce Willis whose careers have been made off being the everyman who saves the day. Today, the idea of being “more masculine” is becoming a negative ideal for men under 30. In a recent survey from polling outlet YouGov, an astounding 42 percent of men aged 18-24 have a negative perception of the word “masculinity.” This is a 27 percent decline when compared to the next age group, 25-49.

So, why are we buying our dads computer games instead of tool belts now?

It’s not that we are getting softer; it’s more about the difference in the world we live in today. A perfect example of the change in tide is the idea of being a “geek.” Just 20 years ago, the geek tag was a stain on your social life and put you in the outcast group. Enjoying board games, sci-fi movies, and playing with computers was social suicide. Being a geek was admitting that you weren’t manly enough and you didn’t fit the traditional mold. This is a fact that hasn’t escaped comedian and geek icon Chris Hardwick. “When I was growing up there was nothing cool about being a nerd. You had to hide from people and keep it inside,” he said. “… And that’s no longer the case! Nerds are powerful; like, pop culture is run by nerds. Like, even the redneckiest of rednecks has a smartphone.”

Today, those geeks from the ’80s and ’90s have moved the world further in 30 years than the previous three generations of “manly man” who ate nails for breakfast and glass for dinner, did in 100 years. It’s OK to be a geek today. It’s acceptable. Most of the world’s young billionaires are tech geniuses who played computer games when they were kids, and those “geeks” unknowingly fought for today’s perception of masculinity.

Where we are today

The fact is, we are a much more tech-savvy culture today and that has severely changed the meaning of masculinity. While our fathers are certainly less tech savvy than we are, they are miles ahead of their fathers who still think the cordless telephone is impressive. I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. A big thanks should be given to the twentysomethings of today who have helped shift their parents into a more technological mindset, but we shouldn’t forget the path paved by the “geeks” and “nerds” of the ’80s. Playing video games, being good with computers and having an interest in tech is not this black cloud like it was back in the ’80s and the popularity of these interests is proof. The gaming industry is a great example of this.

The Entertainment Software Association’s 2016 report shows that gaming is an adult hobby. According to their 2016 report, 44 percent of gamers are over the age of 36 and another 29 percent of gamers are in the 18-35 segment. That is an astounding 73 percent of the gaming community that are out of high school and legal adults. This poll includes demographics across all devices including mobile devices. Not surprisingly, the most popular game genre for mobile devices are puzzle/card games while the most popular genre for gaming consoles are shooters, most notably Call of Duty whose Black Ops 3 was the best selling game in 2016. Following Call of Duty was Madden NFL 16 whose success can be directly connected to the success of the NFL in the United States which last season saw a 23 percent jump in net revenue. Both of these titles have huge followings and are very popular in the competitive gaming community, where the average age of players is about 27.

In summation, there has been a clear shift in our perception when it comes to the importance of masculinity. Men are no longer worried with how their interests will reflect on how people perceive their level of “manliness.” This change started nearly 30 years ago when computer games made their appearance and gave the more analytical man a form of entertainment. It is no coincidence that the 18-34 demographic is much more worried about enjoying themselves than being “masculine” and it seems like the 35-plus demographic isn’t far behind based on their recent purchasing patterns. So this Father’s Day, dads didn’t always get ties–they got something techy.

And then they made a horrible joke about it because no matter the gift, dad jokes will always happen.

Kyle Portman is an Interior and Exterior Design Consultant based in Canada and has been working for himself since 2012.

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Edgybees mashes up video games and real drones for a futuristic new racer

May 31, 2017 - 5:15pm

While Amazon is busy figuring out infrastructure for its Prime Air drone empire, augmented reality startup Edgybees has launched Drone Prix AR, an AR racing game for drones.

Edgybees in fact draws from Amazon’s talent pool; Menashe Haskin, a former manager at the Amazon Prime Air office in Israel, helped cofound it in 2016. Fellow founders CEO Adam Kaplan and vice president for research and development Nitay Megides come from data virtualization and robotics backgrounds respectively.

Even as regulations have ramped up for commercial drones, they garnered some time in the limelight at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year. Industry revenue is estimated to reach more than $6 billion in 2017 and exceed $11.2 billion by 2020, according to market researcher Gartner. The Consumer Technology Association thinks that 2017 will be a big year for drones on the consumer side, estimating a 40 percent increase to 3.4 million drones bought by hobbyists, increasing the audience for drone-based games and apps.

Drone Prix creates an AR race course that overlays whatever environment the drone is in, generating collectable prizes and obstacles for the player to avoid. In a partnership with drone creator DJI and Epson, Drone Prix is optimized for DJI drones and uses the Epson Moverio BT-300 Drone Edition smart glasses. Players can stream a first-person view from their drone’s built-in camera using DJI controllers with a video screen or via their smartphones with the DJI GO app. However, the Moverio Drone Edition glasses can also provide a more seamless heads-up display.

Others have tried to create AR racing games for drones, such as Drone n Base, which sought $70,000 on Indiegogo in 2015 to create its own drone as well as the corresponding game for players’ mobile devices. The project ended up raising only about $25,000, but it nevertheless moved forward with manufacturing and released its iOS app in beta earlier this year in January.

Drone Prix is single-player game for now, though it does feature a leaderboard, and comes with 30 obstacle courses in various levels of difficulty. It’s too early to say whether the game will take off, since it seems that most people are using their drones to make films or take selfies. But if the Drone Racing League is any indication, there’s interest in more applications, which Edgybees is likely counting on. According to CNBC, 28.2 million viewers watched DRL’s first season on ESPN last year, and the second season which airs this June will be broadcast in 75 countries.

You no longer have to register your drone

May 19, 2017 - 5:11pm

A federal appeals court has shot down a rule requiring hobbyists to register their drones.

Appeals court judges in Washington, D.C. agreed on Friday with a drone enthusiast’s challenge to a FAA requirement that all hobbyists register their drones in a national database and pay a $5 fee. People who failed to comply with the regulations, intended to promote drone safety and help identify dangerous drone operators, risked fines and jail time.

The court found that the FAA’s drone registration rule, which debuted in Dec. 2015, conflicts with previous federal legislation from 2012 that said that the FAA lacks the authority to regulate “model aircraft.” The appeals court categorizes drones as model aircraft.

”Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler,” the appeals court said in siding with plaintiff John Taylor, a drone hobbyist from Washington, DC. “The Registration Rule is unlawful as applied to model aircraft.”

At least for now, the appeals court order dismantles the FAA’s years’ long efforts to create and then enforce a national drone registration system for recreational use. To develop the drone registration system, the FAA created a committee that included representatives from companies like Amazon and Google to help devise the registration system’s requirements.

Eventually, the FAA built a website for people to register their drones and created educational campaigns about flight safety. Drone owners were required to place registration numbers on their aircraft.

The FAA responded to the ruling on Friday by saying that it would review the decision before determining its next step, if any. A potential strategy is to get Congress to amend the original 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act that designated drones as model aircraft that were not subject to FAA authority.

“Congress is of course always free to repeal or amend its 2012 prohibition on FAA rules regarding model aircraft,” the judges said. “Perhaps Congress should do so. Perhaps not. In any event, we must follow the statute as written.”

Some of the organizations that agreed with Friday’s ruling included the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), an aviation non-profit. AMA president Rich Hanson said in a statement that “federal registration shouldn’t apply at such a low threshold that it includes toys.”

“For decades, AMA members have registered their aircraft with AMA and have followed our community-based safety programming,” Hanson said. “It is our belief that a community-based program works better than a federally mandated program to manage the recreational community.”

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a drone and robotics advocacy non-profit, disagreed with the Friday ruling, and said that it a federal registration system “is important to promote accountability and responsibility by users of the national airspace.”

“We plan to work with Congress on a legislative solution that will ensure continued accountability across the entire aviation community, both manned and unmanned,” said AUVSI president and CEO Brian Wynne in a statement.

The Small UAV Coalition, a drone coalition with members including Amazon, Intel, and Verizon’s venture capital arm, also opposed the court order.

“The FAA must have appropriate authority to maintain reasonable oversight of UAS operations, including management of a national UAS registry, which is the first step to identifying UAS operating in the national airspace,” the Small UAV Coalition said in a statement.

China-based DJI, currently the world’s biggest drone manufacturer, applauded the FAA’s work to create the drone registration system.

This story originally appeared on Copyright 2017

Amazon is opening a drone research center in France to boost its Prime Air service

May 18, 2017 - 3:52am

In an effort to accelerate development of drone delivery service, Amazon today announced that it is investing in a new research and development center that will be located in a Paris suburb.

The fledgling drone service is known as Prime Air, and the new Prime Air Development Center will be based in Clichy, France.

The new center will be home to about a dozen software developers, who will initially focus on creating a system for traffic management.

“This team of talented engineers will be instrumental in developing the world’s safest and most sophisticated traffic management software for autonomous drones,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global innovation policy and communications, in a statement.

Ultimately, the goal with Prime Air is to have a delivery system that gets orders to people in less than 30 minutes.

Amazon stressed that its in-house traffic management software would work in tandem with current air traffic control systems — because nobody wants their order of toilet paper and John Grisham novels to accidentally bring down an A-380.

In fact, when operational, the drones would operate at low altitudes.

The new French center will work in partnership with several other Prime Air development centers around the world, including in the U.S., Austria, and Israel. The announcement also comes just a few weeks after the company said it was opening a machine learning hub in the U.K.

“France is packed with talent. Its academic excellence is globally renowned, and we believe that this unique savoir-faire will play a pivotal role as we continue to innovate on behalf of customers,” added Frédéric Duval, country manager of, said in a statement.

Amazon doubles down on machine learning with new U.K. development hub

May 4, 2017 - 2:06am

Amazon has announced plans to expand its development center in Cambridge, England as the internet giant doubles down on its investment in machine learning, drones, Alexa digital, and other forms of artificial intelligence.

It’s been known that Amazon has for some time had a “top secret” lab in Cambridge, where it has been building out its Prime Air drone delivery service — in fact, it was in this very city that the company first delivered a package by drone back in December. Moving forward, Amazon will now have two sites in the famous university city, which is located about 50 miles north of London, and plans to open a new 60,000 sq. ft facility later this fall.

The new building can fit around 400 people, who will include “machine learning scientists, knowledge engineers, data scientists, mathematical modellers, speech scientists, and software engineers,” according to a press release issued by the company. However, the facility will also house current employees working on a range of Amazon devices, including the Alexa-enabled Echo, the Kindle, and the Fire tablet.

When the new facility opens, the existing base will be used primarily to develop the company’s Prime Air drone service.

“By the end of this year, we will have more than 1,500 innovation-related roles here in Britain, working on everything from machine learning and drone technology to streaming video technology and Amazon Web Services,” noted Doug Gurr, Amazon’s U.K. country manager.

Amazon has been announcing major expansion plans around the world this year. In the U.K., the company recently committed to hiring 5,000 employees across the country, and it also announced plans to grow its headcount by 55 percent in the U.S. over the next 18 months, taking its domestic employee count to 280,000.

Naturally, the U.K. government was quick to pounce on this latest news as evidence of the country’s continued success in a post-Brexit world, with minister of state for digital and culture, Matt Hancock, adding: “Amazon’s increased investment in developing cutting-edge technology in Cambridge is another vote of confidence in the U.K. as a world-leading center of invention and innovation.”