What’s in the skies over Colorado and Nebraska

Mysterious swarms of giant drones have dotted the Colorado and Nebraska night sky since last week, The Denver Post first reported.

The drones appear and disappear at roughly the same time each night in swarms of at least 17 and up to 30. The drones appear to measure about 6 feet across.

Local and federal government authorities say they have no idea where the drones are coming from. They do not appear to be malicious, however, and a drone expert says they appear to be searching or mapping out the area.

Buwahahahahah!

Saudis spent $62+billion last year on armaments. Yemeni Houthis just attacked with $15K drones.

Half Saudi Arabia’s oil production shut down. 5% of global oil supply.

❝ Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on key Saudi oil facilities on Saturday, setting off blazes that could be seen from space and showcasing how cheap new technologies allow even minor militant groups to inflict serious damage on major powers…

It was not clear how badly damaged the facilities were, but shutting them down for more than a few days would disrupt world oil supplies. Between them, the two centers can process 8.45 million barrels of crude oil a day, amounting to the vast majority of the production in Saudi Arabia, which produces almost one-tenth of the world’s crude oil…

❝ The difference in resources available to the attacker and the victim could hardly have been greater, illustrating how David-and-Goliath style attacks using cheap drones are adding a new layer of volatility to the Middle East.

Such attacks not only damage vital economic infrastructure, they increase security costs and spread fear — yet they are remarkably cheap. The drones used in Saturday’s attack may have cost $15,000 or less to build, said Wim Zwijnenburg, a senior researcher on drones at PAX, a Dutch peace organization.

The Global Military-Industrial Complex still hasn’t learned crap about guerrilla warfare. Sure, the Pentagon and their peers know how to spend taxpayer dollars by the bucketload. They’re mostly backed up by political hacks who still think the best solution to civilized inequity is to resolve disquiet and resentment with weapons ranging from bullets to bombs. Nothing cheap of course. No self-respecting graduate of West Point would be found killing significant populations without delivery systems costing million$.

RTFA. Maximum cost per each of these drones was about $15,000. A third of the price of the average new pickup truck bought in the GOUSA.

Drones Drop Poison Bombs to Fight An Island’s Invasion by Rats

❝ Release just one pregnant rat on an island and soon enough the invasive predators will have decimated that pristine environment like an atom bomb. Sure, rats on their own are pretty neat, but we’ve got a nasty habit of transporting them where they don’t belong, at which point they transform into menaces.

Such is the plight of the Galapagos Island of Seymour Norte, a speck of 455 acres off the coast of Ecuador. In 2007, conservationists succeeded in ridding the island of invasive rats, but a decade later, the fiends had returned, likely by swimming from the neighboring island of Baltra.

❝ Realizing the impending doom of Seymour Norte’s endemic species—rats eat both the eggs and hatchlings of birds, as well as reptiles like iguanas—conservationists again declared war, this time unleashing a new weapon: drones. Flying autonomously along predetermined routes, the drones have been dropping rodenticide bombs with extreme precision, down to half a meter accuracy. On Seymour Norte, officials and conservationists are once again banishing the rats, but the war against invasive species for the purity of the world’s islands has only just begun…

An island is an exceptional place, each one host to an ecosystem like no other on Earth. One common theme among islands, though, is that they’re often devoid of mammals (save for bats), which unlike birds and insects struggle to make the journey from the mainland. So when a mammal like a rat does arrive, it sends the ecosystem into chaos.

And that’s the case on Seymour Norte. RTFA for the gory details.

Replanting a forest from the air

❝ Wildfires are consuming our forests and grasslands faster than we can replace them. It’s a vicious cycle of destruction and inadequate restoration rooted, so to speak, in decades of neglect of the institutions and technologies needed to keep these environments healthy.

DroneSeed is a Seattle-based startup that aims to combat this growing problem with a modern toolkit that scales: drones, artificial intelligence and biological engineering. And it’s even more complicated than it sounds…

❝ Earlier this year, DroneSeed was awarded the first multi-craft, over-55-pounds unmanned aerial vehicle license ever issued by the FAA. Its custom UAV platforms, equipped with multispectral camera arrays, high-end lidar, six-gallon tanks of herbicide and proprietary seed dispersal mechanisms have been hired by several major forest management companies, with government entities eyeing the service as well.

RTFA. Please. Interesting, useful tech being used for progressive ends benefitting our species. Perhaps, if sufficient numbers of human beings get off their rusty-dusties and build political movements to support and involve solutions like this – we can turn around some of the decades of profits-before-anything-else ideology that has destroyed so much of this world, this nation’s potential.

Mako unmanned wingman “cleared for takeoff” — and lots of sales!


Kratos

❝ Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has been granted approval by the US government to market its UTAP-22 Mako ‘unmanned wingman’ internationally…

The US State Department has permitted the San Diego-based company to promote its Mako jet-powered unmanned aircraft system to certain undisclosed European and Asia-Pacific region countries.

❝ …The Mako offers fighter-like performance and is designed to function as a wingman to manned aircraft, as a force multiplier in contested airspace, or to be deployed independently or in groups of UASs. It is capable of carrying both weapons and sensor systems.

It will obey all orders. No educated, independent thought allowed.

Earlier post: https://eideard.com/2017/06/18/the-u-s-air-force-is-ready-to-try-disposable-drones/

Amazon patents drones wirelessly charging your electric car while driving — Who? Wha?


Click to enlargeReuters/Brendan McDermid

As countries around the world are putting more electric vehicles on the road, they’re also struggling to power those engines. For now, countries are focusing on adding charging stations, but in the future there may be a more mobile option available to drivers: flying drones that come to you.

In early October, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Amazon the patent for developing a drone that can connect to transfer electricity to a car in motion. Amazon filed the application in 2014, the patent document showed…

How cool is that?

In a nutshell, when the vehicle is low on battery, it will contact a central server, which communicates with the car to figure out the amount of energy needed for its intended destination before sending out an unmanned flying machine with some form of battery to service the car. Several authentication steps would be required to prevent malicious use, according to the filing. The new patent might go well with an earlier Amazon application that envisions recharging stations on top of public street lights for flying drones to use themselves.

So, if you’ve been wandering around the countryside in your full-electric AWD Ford Watanabe checking out new fishing spots – and weren’t paying attention to your car’s charged level – the car will do it for you. A new level of Amazon Prime service may be required. And sounds useful to me. If I was still living my life on the road.

Drones used for first time in a major search at Grand Canyon


Brandon TorresAP Photo

❝ The desperate effort last week to find two hikers who disappeared at the bottom of the Grand Canyon represented the National Park Service’s most extensive use yet of drones in a search-and-rescue mission.

The Grand Canyon is the only national park with its own fleet of unmanned aircraft for locating people who have gotten lost, stranded, injured or killed. Under a program that began last fall, it has five drones and four certified operators.

While the aerial search for the two hikers came up empty, it threw a spotlight on technology that can enter crevices and other rugged spots unreachable by foot while sparing searchers the dangers of going up in a helicopter.

❝ The aircraft were used Monday through Wednesday in the search for LouAnn Merrell, 62, and her step grandson, Jackson Standefer, 14. The park also sent out three ground search teams of about 20 people in all, an inflatable motor boat and a helicopter.

Merrell and Standefer vanished last weekend after losing their footing while crossing a creek near the North Rim. They were on a hike with Merrell’s husband, Merrell Boot Co. co-founder Randy Merrell, and the boy’s mother.

The park soon scaled back the operation and stopped using the drones but continued the search. In a statement, the hikers’ families backed the decision and said they were “still praying for a miracle.”

❝ Other national parks use drones, but for wildlife research. The use of private drones is prohibited in national parks.

James Doyle, a spokesman for the park service’s Intermountain region, said other national parks will probably seek their own drone fleets, too. He said the Grand Canyon’s extreme topography — it is a mile deep — makes it a perfect candidate.

Even unsuccessful, this latest use of new technology cost less and endangered a fewer folks than traditional means. Which, BTW, were revolutionary in their own time.

Coppers are cheerfully expanding their drone fleets

❝ Speaking at the Drone World Expo…a panel of four law enforcement officers resoundingly approved their use and likely near-term expansion of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles.

“I really feel that small UAVs are a cost-effective way of enhancing public safety,” Cmdr. Tom Madigan, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, told an assembled group of mostly fellow deputies and officers. “I hope in the near future we will be able to deploy these out of a patrol car or a fire truck.”

As one of the largest law enforcement agencies in Northern California, with a fleet of six drones that are often loaned out and used on behalf of other public safety agencies from Monterey County to the Oregon border, the ACSO has been busy.

❝ “As of last week, we have deployed 70 real world missions in the last year,” he said. “We have quickly become one of the most active UAV units in the nation, and we’re easily the biggest.”…

❝ For his part, Alan Frazier, a deputy sheriff at the Grand Forks County department, said that with 32 sworn officers serving a largely rural county, having inexpensive drones was a godsend, given that “in our wildest dreams we will never be able to have [conventional] air support.” (His department, in a county with a population of about 66,000, now has a fleet of five drones.)

❝ The Peace Garden State has become one of the nation’s hubs for the drone industry, with a federally approved drone testing facility, a military drone base, and an active drone studies program at the University of North Dakota. There is even a regular university committee that meets to discuss drone privacy issues.

So, now you have to decide if the cute little buzzer watching over your peaceful demonstration for voting rights or maybe clean water belongs to the local coppers, a newspaper, or some creepy basement-dweller trying for YouTube stardom.

We’ve have plenty of the last for years. Decide how you want to deal with record-keeping of your life from 30 feet overhead. Maybe try to sort out what should be legal, ethical.

Pic of the day


Click to enlargeBrett Gundlock/Boreal Collective

Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico City lately have found themselves being buzzed by a fleet of sign-toting drones. “Driving by yourself?” some scolded in Spanish. “This is why you can never see the volcanoes” — a reference to the smog that often hovers over the mega-city and obscures two nearby peaks.

It wasn’t exactly a plea for environmentalism, though — it was an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber’s big push into markets across Latin America. As Bloomberg points out, Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets…And that, apparently, involves accosting drivers in gridlock with a swarm of drones.

In the US, someone would already have been busted for shooting at the critters.