Sunglider high altitude test flight

HAPSMobile Inc…successfully reached an altitude of more than 60,000 feet above sea level during a 20-hour test flight of the Sunglider™ solar-powered high-altitude platform station (HAPS) at Spaceport America. This is the second successful test flight of the Sunglider at Spaceport America since the company began operations at the site in May 2020.

The test flight began on September 21 at 5:16am (MT) and concluded just after 1:00am (MT) on September 22 following the successful achievement of a series of major test objectives and maneuvers. Sunglider reached an altitude of 62,500 feet (approximately 19 kilometers) and demonstrated the world’s first successful delivery of LTE connectivity from a fixed-wing HAPS autonomous aircraft in the stratosphere. The success of this stratospheric test flight is a major step forward for HAPSMobile as it continues to pursue its mission of bridging the digital divide by building its business in the stratosphere, a new frontier for humankind. HAPSMobile will continue to work to revolutionize mobile networks by leveraging HAPS.

Known as a “cell-tower in the sky,” Sunglider aims to provide better communications to under-served areas, including rural communities. The success of this stratospheric test flight is a major step forward in this mission.

Check out the video up top. This solar-powered drone flew on battery-electric power, recharging from solar panel wing surfaces. Way cool. A classic New Mexico test project. 🙂

Earlier testing in July

Brits new drone flies indoors – and kills people

The UK’s Ministry of Defence is developing a twin shotgun-toting drone that is able to fly inside buildings, as well as identify prospective targets using AI vision, reports The six-rotor drone presently exists in a prototype version called i9. It will be used primarily for indoor conflicts where a situation is deemed too dangerous to send in live personnel. While the drone has various autonomous features, the weapons will be remote-controlled by a soldier responsible for firing them

The Times newspaper explains this is the UK military’s first weaponised drone that can fly indoors. This is achieved using a mix of “physics and AI” that enable it to overcome a problem called “wall suck.”

Apparently, murder doesn’t suck!

UK Will Use Drones to Deliver Covid-19 Tests to Scotland’s Western Isles

The U.K. will use drones to deliver coronavirus testing kits to remote parts of Scotland, including islands off its west coast.

Drone delivery company Skyports Ltd., based in London, is working with the National Health Service to deliver the tests and other medical supplies from a hospital on the Argyll and Bute mainland, the U.K. Space Agency said on Friday in a statement…

The sector “is stepping up to provide innovative solutions to directly support our amazing NHS, as we continue our national effort tackling coronavirus,” Science Minister Amanda Solloway said in a statement.

The most important regulatory change which permits this venture into timely response has been removing the requirement for drones to always be visible line-of-sight by the operator. Someone finally noticed you can track drones on radar, I guess.

Utah law lets authorities take down drones at wildfires

Click to enlarge

Utah’s governor has signed into law a measure that makes the state the first to let authorities jam drone signals and crash the devices specifically for flying too close to wildfires.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office announced Monday that he signed the law over the weekend, just days after lawmakers met in a special session to pass it and a handful of other bills.

State Sen. Evan Vickers, who co-sponsored the law, says it technically allows firefighters and law enforcement to shoot down drones, but they probably won’t do that because it’s too difficult. Instead, authorities are expected to use technology that jams signals and crashes drones.

Utah passed the law after a drone recently was sighted five times over one wildfire, causing firefighters to ground their aircraft and slow their work.

But, but, but…some idjit was seriously getting some dynamite images and video for his YouTube account. Might’ve gone viral and got him a real job.

A drone designed to rid the world of landmines

A Netherlands-based Kickstarter campaign wants to use drones to get rid of landmines in the next decade.

The Mine Kafon Drone is an aerial vehicle that can map landmine-rich environments, do effective sweeping searches with metal detectors, and plant detonators before escaping to a safe distance—all without a single living foot touching the ground.

It’s a drone that could potentially save thousands of lives, with the body and chassis of something reminiscent of an Imperial Probe Droid.

Or one of those squid-like things from The Matrix.

Still, the world would be a better place with a few hundred of these running around.

I’ll second that emotion.

M&M-shooting drones may save the Black-Footed Ferret

Click to enlargeScott Osler/Denver Post

It’s not often you find yourself rooting for the weaselly masked character picking dog meat out of its teeth. But in the case of the endangered black-footed ferret, conservation scientists have rallied behind the tiny predator — thought to be extinct twice over the past century — by attempting to unleash a fleet of M&M-shooting drones over 1,200 acres of its grassland habitat in Montana.

…That…plan is actually the best shot the 300 remaining wild ferrets have at surviving. The flea-borne sylvatic plague has wiped out most of the ferret’s favorite snack—prairie dogs—and when the dogs die, so do the ferrets. So the US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to use drones to sprinkle peanut butter-flavored plague vaccines over the prairie dog’s habitat.

The plan has to get through a public comment period and a few other assessments before it’s a reality. If it gets approved, the agency wants to start testing the method in UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana, where they’ve been trying to reestablish a ferret population for more than two decades….

You wish you got these vaccines as a kid: They’re delivered orally, via delicious, peanut butter-smothered bait…And while they don’t have the hard coating of an M&M, they’re roughly the same size and shape, with the texture of a chewy energy bar. Prairie dogs are big fans, eating up to 90 percent of the goodies in field tests…

Mass-producing an effective vaccine is just one part of the challenge; distribution is a whole other animal…Enter the drone. With his (yet-to-be-built) design, USFW biologist Randy Matchett says a single drone could dispense three baits at a time. A GPS-controlled trigger would launch a mini catapult every 30 feet. With an automatic reloader and a payload of 5,000 doses, a drone might be able to treat 400 acres in an hour – about 50 times faster than a human can dole out baits.

Matchett and his crew hope to have a demonstration vehicle ready for proof of concept in a few more weeks. They’re going to have to demo it successfully – or at least show folks it has a chance of working. Good luck, folks.

British University testing drones to hunt for landmines

Landmine-hunting drone

Landmines never stop waiting. The simple machines are explosives with triggers, set in the ground primed and ready for someone to set them off. For landmines, the war never ends. For humans, war does, and the landmines that once marked the front line between warring factions can change instead to deadly artifacts, a lethal trap for anyone who wanders unknowingly into danger. Getting rid of landmines is a humanitarian concern. To solve it, scientists from the University of Bristol are enlisting the help of drones.

One of the major dangers with landmines is that, while they’re waiting in the ground to blow up, the vegetation around them isn’t, and after a few seasons, plants can grow over the bombs, hiding them from human eyes. But there are other ways to detect them, says John Day of Bristol’s School of Physics:

Living plants have a very distinctive reflection in the near infrared spectrum, just beyond human vision, which makes it possible to tell how healthy they are. Chemicals in landmines leak out and are often absorbed by plants, causing abnormalities. Looking for these changes might be a way of discovering the whereabouts of mines…

The project is sponsored by Find A Better Way, a British charity dedicated to finding, well, a better way to get rid of landmines.

Nice to see drones used for something on behalf of humanity.