Drone of my Dreams

Posted by Sam Churchill on

This morning I had a long and detailed lucid dream. I was flying a personal hovercraft, chasing butterflys.

I could fly in close to a single butterfly, and snap photos of it. The hovercraft was about the size of a Segway, small, quiet and maneuverable. It was easy to fly. You leaned to steer.

In my dream, I flew all over Portland (my home town), traveling 30-40 mph and up to 1,000 feet.

I remember the air in my face. The feedback of the controls. The sense of absolute freedom and weightlessness. I felt like Superman. I never had so much fun. The propulsion system barely made a sound. It was clearly something from the future.

I thought about this dream all day long. Then it dawned on me — maybe I was actually flying a small, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, using a VR headset.

The camera-equipped drone relayed everything to me in real-time. It just felt like I was there.

My dream seemed so real, it got me thinking. UAVs now have the Command and Control frequencies at 5 GHz and LTE-A for video. Maybe VR-controlled drones are not such a wild dream.

I can imagine 3-4 levels of VR drones in the next 5-10 years.

  • Small VR drones – for security and personal use. This is the drone of my dreams. Maybe it’s five years off, but you might fly these small lithium-air powered craft from an office chair. Put the goggles on. See 360 degrees. Flys like a Segway. Civilians would need a UAV license to fly. Geofencing, lidar and auto pilot are standard issue, and take over when it’s time to land.
  • VR Predator Drones for police, traffic and live map inserts. These drones are multi-user and orbit at 5,000 feet. Gorgon Stare optics let multiple users track hundreds of targets simultaneously. Need a Google Map with a live view? Gorgon Stare delivers. Need Google Earth LIVE? No problem.
  • High Orbit drones. These orbit weeks or months at a time, up to 65,000 feet. For general observation, command and control, tracking, live maps and gaming. Fire up the X-Box. Talk directly to your fellow live VR travelers. Relay live video from your bot at a Paris cafe; a cell phone on wheels.
  • Space Drones. For space travelers on a budget. These 3U CubeSats enable anyone to experience walking in space. They relay a 60 GHz signal to a companion satellite for communications. Virgin America? Why not travel in space for $100/hr? The ultimate ride.

Military drones are cold-blooded killing machines. It’s time for civilians to take charge. Boeing’s iPhone app can fly drones 3000 miles away using Micro Aerial Vehicle Visualization. The RQ-11B Raven is a 4.2-pound, backpackable, handlaunched UAV that provides wireless, day and night, real-time video imagery.

DIY Drones has everything you need to get off the ground. Their Arduino-compatible ArduPilot, the world’s first universal autopilot, runs a variety of UAV systems, including ArduPlane, a pro-level UAV system for planes of all types and ArduCopter, a fully-autonomous helicopter system. Hood Tech’s imagers on UAVs provide daylight and thermal imaging. Small UAS News has the latest.

Police, fire and similar agencies are able to fly drones weighing as much as 25 pounds without applying for special approvals, but any drone flying over 400 feet needs a certification or authorization from the FAA (pdf). The Vapor Unmanned Helicopter includes gimbaled EO/IR camera with video link, a full digital flight controls, and a battery load providing up to 1 hour endurance just under the 25 lb weight cap.

Unfortunately, there is currently no information available to the public about who specifically has obtained these authorizations or for what purposes. The FAA has asked for public input on the agency’s selectio for six UAS test sites. “Based upon the expected regulatory environment,” the agency said it predicts “roughly 10,000 active commercial UASs in five years.”

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Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, May 21st, 2012 at 12:52 am .

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