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Posts Tagged ‘drone’

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Photo: Wing. 
A Virginia school district has been using Wing, a drone service owned by the parent company of Google, to deliver books to students during the pandemic.

I love stories about the determination of librarians to get books to people no matter what the odds. You may have read my bicycle-library post, camel-library post, library-on-horseback post, or the 2020 post about a book bus in Kabul, here. You can’t keep a good librarian down.

The story today is about book delivery by drone. Marie Fazio writes at the New York Times, “Last week, Deanna Robertson and her two sons stood on their front lawn in western Virginia scanning the sky for a drone they could hear humming from almost a mile away.

“When it finally arrived, hovering above their heads, the boys rushed forward to take what it offered: a copy of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ required summer reading and possibly the first library book delivered by drone in history.

“With students unable to make it to the library because of the coronavirus, the Montgomery County Public School district has partnered with Wing, the drone-delivery unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to deliver books to their homes. One week into the project, there have been more than 35 successful deliveries, said Kelly Passek, a middle-school librarian and the mastermind of the project. …

“Students living in Wing’s four-mile delivery zone in Christiansburg can use a Google form to request a specific book or ask Ms. Passek to choose one she thinks they would like. Around 600 Montgomery County students live within the delivery footprint.

After pulling a book from the library shelf and making sure it weighs less than three pounds, Ms. Passek packages the book and brings it to Wing’s office in Christiansburg. The drone takes over from there.

“It flies to a delivery site, lowers the book on a cable and releases the grip as it hits the ground.

“The students can borrow multiple books and do not have to return them until they go back to school in the fall. …

“Keith Heyde, the head of Virginia operations for Wing, said the company had completed thousands of deliveries for requests like Walgreens over-the-counter medications and cold brew from local coffee shops. The drones, which have a wingspan of 3.3 feet and weigh 10.6 lbs., can carry packages around three pounds up to speeds approaching 70 miles per hour, according to the company. They can fly 12 miles round trip.

“Ms. Passek was one of the first Christiansburg residents to receive a drone delivery when Wing began the program. Her first order, a Walgreens cough and cold care package, made her think of other uses for drones in the community, namely library books. She raised the idea with Mr. Heyde last fall, and revisited it with him when the coronavirus hit the United States.

“Book requests have been a mix of required summer reading and books of a student’s choice, Ms. Passek said. While Ms. Robertson’s 14-year-old son, Brendan, was assigned ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ [Camden], 11, ordered John Grisham’s ‘Theodore Boon: Kid Lawyer’ to read for fun. …

“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, drones have been used in novel ways all over the world. In Britain, the police used drones to enforce social distancing. In Fairfield, Conn., they were used to monitor beach and parkgoers. An eager drone user in Queens broadcast a coronavirus safety message on his drone’s speakers as it flew over the streets of New York City. …

“Cold-brew coffees from a local coffee shop are particularly popular, Mr. Heyde said. Since the coronavirus, there has been a substantial increase per month in sign-ups for drone delivery, he said, but he believes the virus accelerated a pre-existing trend. … To the best of his knowledge, this is the first library book program by drone in history.

“ ‘If we can provide even one or two students with a resource they wouldn’t have access to otherwise because they wouldn’t be able to go to the library, that’s a win,’ he said.”

More here.

 

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Here’s a new idea for keeping waterways clean, and wouldn’t you know, the idea comes from the Netherlands.

David Z. Morris reports at Fortune magazine that at the September “World Port Days conference, the Port of Rotterdam debuted a pair of aquatic drones to help the port operate more efficiently and cleanly. One is the Waste Shark, an autonomous vessel to gather waste from the port’s busy waters before it can be washed out to sea. …

“According to Silicon Angle, The Waste Shark can gather up to 500 kilograms of waste, or 1120 pounds, before returning it to a collection point. The vessel also gathers data about water quality, and designs more efficient collection routes as it learns over time. …

“The craft, developed by RanMarine, could help curb the mounting environmental threat of ocean waste. Last year, there were an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, with 269,000 tons floating on the surface—and doing serious harm to ocean life.” More.

Those of you who followed Erik’s relatives’ summer sailing adventure from Denmark to the Mediterranean will recall how dangerous floating debris can be. Reminisce here.

Photo: RanMarine
The Waste Shark autonomous waste collector. 

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Martin Del Vecchio narrates his beautiful drone shots of Gloucester, Mass.

As Greg Cook writes at WBUR’s show the Artery, drones have as many uses as human creativity can devise, some good, some not so good.

He focuses on the photography and art applications. “In April, a graffiti artist going by the name KATSU used a customized drone to (illegally) scrawl paint high up on a Manhattan billboard that had been thought inaccessible to taggers. A video posted to YouTube in March, shows a bicyclist riding high up along a cliff in (according to the post) Sedona, Arizona. People have brought back astonishing footage from flying drones into fireworks and active volcanoes.

“Video by video, drones are transforming how we see the world — and this new view is changing how we understand the world.

“ ‘It’s not a fad,’ says Randy Scott Slavin, founder of the New York City Drone Film Festival. ‘Flying cameras are here to stay for sure. Because the perspective they get is great.’ …

“[Slavin] fell for drones when he got a Phantom a few years back. ‘I would shoot everywhere I went. Every time I went on vacation, I would shoot,’ he says. ‘Before I knew it, I started showing it to some of my director friends and they were like, “Shoot for me.” ‘ ”

Helen Greiner, CEO of Massachusetts-based Drone maker CyPhy Works says, “You’re just seeing the world the way a bird sees.” More here.

Photo: Greg Cook/WBUR
As drones have become cheaper and easier to fly, many people, like Martin Del Vecchio of Gloucester, are exploring the creative possibilities.

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The first time I really got into the Internet and computers was in 1994 when I was working at HBR. We all loved experimenting with kooky screen savers. Do you remember flying toasters?

Flying toasters are what I think of when I look at what reader Rob Moses is doing with his camera on a drone. Here are photos from a flight over the Calgary Zoo. (Rob lives in Canada.)

He writes, “I have been flying around this DJi Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter lately. I took this picture with it flying over the Calgary Zoo. One of the most fun things around flying one of these things is having the ability to shoot photos of views people don’t really see. This picture is a good example of a view not seen. I only wish there was some animals walking around in the picture haha.”

Seeing what your flying camera picked up must feel similar to riding on a train through people’s backyards, where you get a sense of lives as they are lived that you never get from a front lawn.

Be sure to check out the Rob Moses Photography blog, here.

Photo: Rob Moses Photography

 

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Here’s a use for drones that pretty much everyone but a poacher could celebrate. I got the story from Living on Earth.

“Poaching is a threat to the survival of rhinos worldwide, and anti-poaching efforts have always been one step behind. Now, park rangers in South Africa have a leg up. John Petersen from the Air Shepherd program tells host Steve Curwood how the power of predictive analytics combined with drone technology could help to rescue the rhinos. …

“Curwood: The Air Shepherd uses military-style computer analytics to identify poaching hot spots, and then sends silent drones equipped with night vision to track down poachers, who like to work after dark, when people can’t see them. …

“Petersen: Some of these game parks are the size of Connecticut. And if you’ve got a little model airplane and you’re trying to figure out where to fly that airplane in that size of a piece of land, and you don’t have any idea about particularly where to fly, then you’re wasting your time. That’s where the experience of the University of Maryland comes into play, because they have developed a predictive analytic tool to tell us on a daily basis where the animals are likely to be and where the poachers are likely to be. …

“You build databases that have all of the topography of the land that you’re looking at. It has all the historical information about where poaching has happened in the past, so that you get patterns on where they happened. You figure out the time of the day and the time of the year, and whether it was wet and what the weather was like, and whether there were waterholes close by, and whether there was a full moon, and how close to roads they were, and other such things. And the combination of all of this allows you to say with a high degree of confidence that, tonight, you should fly your aircraft over the top — you’re going to know that this is where the poachers will come if they come tonight. …

“You can alert the rangers, because they’re positioned close by. They can get there in a hurry and they can capture the person and arrest them before they have a chance to kill the animal.”

More at Living on Earth.

This is clearly a tool in the tool box. But attacking the demand is going to be just as important. Especially since, according to Curwood,  “traditional Asian doctors believe that rhino horns have curative power, and market demand has driven some rhino species to the edge of extinction.”

Photo: Michael Romondo
Staff members of South Africa-based UAV & Drone Solutions hold one of their drones. UAV supplies the drones and the ground crew for Air Shepherd.

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