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   Technology StocksDrones, Autonomous Vehicles and Flying Cars


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From: Glenn Petersen5/20/2022 10:58:48 AM
4 Recommendations   of 3126
 
Drones are actually the best way of delivering mail to far-flung islands

Drones are actually the best way of delivering mail to far-flung islands

EVAN ACKERMAN
IEEE Spectrum
17 MAY 2022
2 MIN READ



Eight-ish years ago, back when drone delivery was more hype than airborne reality (even more so than it is now), DHL tested a fully autonomous delivery service that relied on drones to deliver packages to an island 12 kilometers off Germany’s North Sea coast. The other alternative for getting parcels to the island was a ferry. But because the ferry didn’t run every day, the drones filled the scheduling gaps so residents of the island could get important packages without having to wait.

“To the extent that it is technically feasible and economically sensible,” DHL said at the time, “the use of [drones] to deliver urgently needed goods to thinly populated or remote areas or in emergencies is an interesting option for the future.” We’ve seen Zipline have success with this approach; now, drones are becoming affordable and reliable enough that they’re starting to make sense for use cases that are slightly less urgent than blood and medication deliveries. Now, thinly populated or remote areas can benefit from drones even if they aren’t having an emergency. Case in point: The United Kingdom’s Royal Mail has announced plans to establish more than 50 new postal drone routes over the next three years.

The drones themselves come from Windracers Group, and they’re beefy, able to carry a payload of 100 kilograms up to 1,000 km with full autonomy. Pretty much everything on it ensures redundancy: a pair of engines, six separate control units, and backups for the avionics, communications, and ground control. Here’s an overview of a pilot (pilotless?) project from last year:



Subject to CAA approval and the ongoing planned improvement in UAV economics, Royal Mail is aiming to secure more than 50 drone routes supported by up to 200 drones over the next three years. Island communities across the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, and the Hebrides would be the first to benefit. Longer term, the ambition is to deploy a fleet of more than 500 drones servicing all corners of the U.K.“Corners” is the operative word here, and it’s being used more exclusively than inclusively—these islands are particularly inconvenient to get to, and drones really are the best way of getting regular, reliable mail delivery to these outposts in a cost-effective way. Other options are infrequent boats or even more infrequent large piloted aircraft. But when you consider the horrific relative expense of those modes of transportation, it’s hard for drones not to be cast in a favorable light. And when you want frequent service to a location such as Fair Isle, as shown in the video below, a drone is not only your best bet but also your only reasonable one—it flew 105 km in 40 minutes, fighting strong winds much of the way:



There’s still some work to be done to gain the approval of the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority. At this point, figuring out those airspace protections and safety regulations and all that stuff is likely more of an obstacle than the technical challenges that remain. But personally, I’m much more optimistic about use cases like the one Royal Mail is proposing here that I am about drone delivery of tacos or whatever to suburbanites, because the latter seems very much like a luxury, while the former is an essential service.

Royal Mail Is Doing the Right Thing With Drone Delivery - IEEE Spectrum

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To: TimF who wrote (2462)5/20/2022 12:19:52 PM
From: TimF
4 Recommendations   of 3126
 
Drones Have Transformed Blood Delivery in Rwanda
The autonomous aircraft have shuttled blood to rural, mountainous areas for years. A new analysis proves they’re faster than driving.

Six years ago, Rwanda had a blood delivery problem. More than 12 million people live in the small East African country, and like those in other nations, sometimes they get into car accidents. New mothers hemorrhage. Anemic children need urgent transfusions. You can’t predict these emergencies. They just happen. And when they do, the red stuff stored in Place A has to find its way to a patient in Place B—fast.

That’s not a huge problem if you live in a city. In the United States and the United Kingdom, 80 percent of the population clusters around urban hubs with high-traffic hospitals and blood banks. In African nations like Libya, Djibouti, and Gabon, about 80 to 90 percent of the populations live in cities, too. But in Rwanda, that number flips: 83 percent of Rwandans live in rural areas. So, traditionally, when remote hospitals needed blood, it came by road.

That’s not ideal. The country is mountainous. Roads can be hot, long, and bumpy. If kept cool, donated blood can be stored for just a month or so, but some components that hospitals isolate for transfusions—like platelets—will spoil in days. A turbulent drive is not a perfect match for such finicky cargo.

That logistics issue historically incentivized rural facilities to order more blood than they needed. “There was a problem of overstocking,” says Marie Paul Nisingizwe, a PhD candidate in Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, who focuses her research on Rwanda, her home country. Stocking a little extra could save time later. But if a low-traffic facility didn’t wind up using the blood before it expired, they'd have to dump it.

In 2016, Rwanda’s government signed a contract with Zipline, a San Francisco-based drone startup, to streamline blood deliveries. Zipline’s autonomous drones would fly the blood from a distribution hub to the health care facility. The blood, contained within an IV bag, would parachute down in an insulated cardboard box, and the drone would zip back. Today, Zipline has two hubs in Rwanda; each can make up to 500 deliveries per day.

And now for the first time, there’s proof that drone blood services improve delivery speed and reduce waste. Writing in the April issue of Lancet Global Health, Nisingizwe analyzed nearly 13,000 drone orders between 2017 and 2019 and found that half of the orders took 41 minutes or less to deliver by drone. On the road, that median time would be at least two hours. Reports of wasted blood donations dropped.

The study is the first to analyze medical delivery drones in Africa. (Drone programs are more common in higher-income countries, where they are used to deliver medicine and defibrillators.) “It's amazing to see that actually the delivery drone is feasible in African settings,” says Nisingizwe. (Her research team is not affiliated with Zipline.)

“It’s so good. And it’s not just good for Rwanda,” says Timothy Amukele, a pathologist who is not involved with the research team or Zipline, but who previously ran a medical drone group with projects in Namibia and Uganda. (Amukele is currently the global medical director for ICON Laboratory Services, which helps run clinical trials.) Drone applications for global medicine have been touted for years, but researchers have lacked concrete data to back up that promise, says Amukule: “This is more than just guys playing with toys.”

“Drones are not easy,” he continues. “To actually make this a success, where they're getting blood and packing it safely and releasing the drones and monitoring the flight and bringing them back—and for five years covering 80 percent of that country—it’s just really impressive.”

Don’t be fooled by Rwanda’s rural demographics; the country has a reputation for leaning into health tech innovations. Rwanda’s universal health care system reaches over 90 percent of the population. In 2009, the government piloted a phone-based program, called RapidSMS, to track and reduce maternal and child mortality. By 2013, RapidSMS connected 15,000 villages to the country’s wider network of doctors, hospitals, and ambulances.

“They have one of the most complete electronic data systems,” says Michael Law, Nisingizwe’s advisor and a health policy researcher at UBC, which lets Rwanda’s Ministry of Health track how many people see physicians, how many have malaria or HIV, and how many give birth at health facilities. That’s a gold mine for researchers like Nisingizwe, who want to measure just how much innovation helps. “Frankly, we couldn't have done this evaluation had they not had the data system in place,” says Law.

Before starting her analysis, Nisingizwe traveled to Rwanda to learn about the traditional logistics for delivering blood there. When rural hospital workers needed blood, they’d fill out paper forms, which a driver would take to a national transfusion facility. Staff would fill the order, and the driver would return with it.

Zipline’s drone system seemed more efficient. (The major X-factor for drones is weather—Rwanda is very mountainous, so flying conditions can turn dicey fast—which is why flight operators check the weather and confirm the best route for every approved delivery.) But Nisingizwe wanted to measure how much drones reduced travel times and waste, if at all. She began pulling data from Zipline and Rwanda’s health information system for her analysis, such as order volumes, delivery times, and locations.

Almost immediately, her data revealed that drones beat cars. Delivery times vary by distance, but drones consistently outpaced typical driving times. In 12,733 orders over 32 months, the smallest difference was a three-minute boost and the largest was 211 minutes, always in favor of drones.

The drones also reduced the quantity of blood that expired and went to waste. “I wasn't expecting to see an impact right away,” Nisingizwe says. “But we immediately saw the effect.” Those savings increased with time: 12 months in, drones reduced wasted blood by 67 percent—totaling 140 fewer expirations for the 2017 to 2019 period.

“It's exciting for us,” says Israel Bimpe, a trained pharmacist and the director of Zipline’s Africa Go-To-Market division, based in Rwanda. “It's a validation of the work that we've been doing, in many ways.” In the years since starting blood distribution in Rwanda, Zipline has also partnered with the government of Ghana, in West Africa, to deliver blood, medicine, and vaccines by drone.

The drones seem to answer a huge need, says Kathryn Maitland, a pediatrician from Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study. Maitland has lived in East Africa for 22 years, and she works on clinical trials for critical illnesses. To her, drones are particularly useful for emergency blood transfusions. Children in East Africa face the threat of malaria, which can cause severe anemia. “They’re often very sick,” she says. “If you need a transfusion, you need it now.” Yet traveling for a transfusion takes time that could jeopardize a sick kid’s life. And it’s expensive. “These things could be a game changer,” Maitland says of drone delivery. “Certainly for places that are hard to get to.”

Thanks to drone delivery, rural facilities can now order rarer blood products, including platelets, fresh frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitates—special proteins isolated from plasma. If these were out of stock locally, patients would previously have been referred to another hospital and transported via ambulance.

“The performance has been better than could be expected,” says Jonathan Ledgard, an author and futurist who has helped advance the vision of medical drones in Africa. (Ledgard serves on advisory boards for businesses in the drone industry.)

But the cost of these deliveries is an open question. In an emailed statement, Zipline’s senior VP of external affairs, Anne Hilby, confirmed that the company and the government of Rwanda have not disclosed cost details, adding that that price can vary based on a customer’s needs. “Zipline provides a faster, more sustainable delivery method while remaining cost-competitive with traditional delivery and courier services,” she wrote.

Ledgard would like to see more transparency about that contract between Rwanda and Zipline. “I think it's important that the taxpayers in those countries get to see how much it really costs, and what they are getting out of it,” he says.

Nisingizwe did not analyze how much more Rwanda pays to tote blood with drones instead of cars, but she’d like to study that next. She also wonders whether the drones actually saved lives—something she’d like to investigate later by analyzing whether emergency referrals to urban hospitals have fallen, or if there have been drops in severe outcomes like hemorrhages.

As drone companies try to expand into other nations, they must also assuage the political concerns of some state officials, who fear that drones could be used to drop bombs. “Any airframe which is big enough to carry something valuable for communities is, by default, big enough to carry something which could damage those communities,” says Ledgard.

Other challenges are technical. Ledgard says that drones’ biggest current limitation is battery size. Until batteries get cheaper and more powerful, they’ll restrict payload and range. And Amukele notes that drone deliveries are inherently one-way operations: They can drop blood off by parachute, but they can’t pick up samples. That's the tradeoff of using drones shaped like planes instead of quadcopters, he says. Quadcopters can't carry payloads as effectively, but they're easier to land and take off.

But to Zipline’s Bimpe, so much has changed since 2016, when the company made its first drone delivery in Rwanda. “The first hospital that we started with—they probably have new doctors, new nurses,” says Bimpe. “And those people have no idea how to receive blood other than using drones.”

wired.com

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From: Julius Wong5/21/2022 3:35:19 PM
2 Recommendations   of 3126
 
Wingcopter 198
wingcopter.com

Wingcopter details plans to deploy 12,000 drones across Africa
techcrunch.com

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From: Glenn Petersen5/22/2022 6:35:07 AM
3 Recommendations   of 3126
 
The Turkish Drone That Changed the Nature of Warfare

The Bayraktar TB2 has brought precision air-strike capabilities to Ukraine and other countries. It’s also a diplomatic tool, enabling Turkey’s rise.

By Stephen Witt
The New Yorker
May 9, 2022



In Ukraine, Selçuk Bayraktar, the drone’s inventor, has become a folk hero. Illustration by Todd St. John
-------------------------------

Avideo posted toward the end of February on the Facebook page of Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, showed grainy aerial footage of a Russian military convoy approaching the city of Kherson. Russia had invaded Ukraine several days earlier, and Kherson, a shipbuilding hub at the mouth of the Dnieper River, was an important strategic site. At the center of the screen, a targeting system locked onto a vehicle in the middle of the convoy; seconds later, the vehicle exploded, and a tower of burning fuel rose into the sky. “Behold the work of our life-giving Bayraktar!” Zaluzhnyi’s translated caption read. “Welcome to Hell!”

The Bayraktar TB2 is a flat, gray unmanned aerial vehicle (U.A.V.), with angled wings and a rear propeller. It carries laser-guided bombs and is small enough to be carried in a flatbed truck, and costs a fraction of similar American and Israeli drones. Its designer, Selçuk Bayraktar, the son of a Turkish auto-parts entrepreneur, is one of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers. In the defense of Ukraine, Bayraktar has become a legend, the namesake of a baby lemur at the Kyiv zoo, and the subject of a catchy folk song, which claims that his drone “makes ghosts out of Russian bandits.”

In April, 2016, the TB2 scored its first confirmed kill. Since then, it has been sold to at least thirteen countries, bringing the tactic of the precision air strike to the developing world and reversing the course of several wars. In 2020, in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s dictatorial leader, Ilham Aliyev, used the TB2 to target vehicles and troops, then displayed footage of the strikes on digital billboards in the capital city of Baku.

The TB2 has now carried out more than eight hundred strikes, in conflicts from North Africa to the Caucasus. The bombs it carries can adjust their trajectories in midair, and are so accurate that they can be delivered into an infantry trench. Military analysts had previously assumed that slow, low-flying drones would be of little use in conventional combat, but the TB2 can take out the anti-aircraft systems that are designed to destroy it. “This enabled a fairly significant operational revolution in how wars are being fought right now,” Rich Outzen, a former State Department specialist on Turkey, told me. “This probably happens once every thirty or forty years.”

I spoke with Bayraktar in March, via video. He was in Istanbul, at the headquarters of his company, Baykar Technologies, which employs more than two thousand people. When I asked him about the use of his drones in Ukraine, he told me, “They’re doing what they’re supposed to do—taking out some of the most advanced air-defense systems and armored vehicles in the world.” Bayraktar, who is forty-two years old, has a widow’s peak, soft eyes, and a slightly off-center nose. He was flanked by scale models of new drones, mounted on clear plastic stands, which he displayed to me with the unconcealed pride of an aviation geek. “Any U.A.V. built today to fly, I pilot it myself, because I, like, love it,” he told me. Bayraktar, who has more than two million Twitter followers, uses his account to promote youth-education initiatives, celebrate Turkish martyrs, and post pictures of new aircraft designs. “Some people here consider him like Elon Musk,” Federico Donelli, an international-relations researcher at the University of Genoa, told me.

In May, 2016, Bayraktar married Sümeyye Erdogan, the youngest daughter of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President. Erdogan is the leader of a political Islamist movement that, the analyst Svante Cornell has written, wishes “to build a powerful, industrialized Turkey that serves as the natural leader of the Muslim world.” Turkey’s arms industry has grown tenfold in the past twenty years, and most of the country’s military equipment is now manufactured locally. “The Bayraktars, and particularly the TB2s, have turned into the flagship of the Turkish defense industry,” Alper Coskun, a former Turkish diplomat, told me.

Turkey borders Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, and the European Union, and it faces Russia across the Black Sea. Donelli told me that the shifting allegiances and complex politics of the region reminded him of Europe in the days before the First World War. “In Bayraktar, they have a kind of genius who can change the historical path of Turkey,” Donelli said.

Erdogan has held power since 2003. During that time, he has seized control of the courts and the press, amended the Turkish constitution, and advocated for a return to traditional roles for women. Journalists critical of the Erdogan regime have been beaten with baseball bats and iron rods, and opposition activists have been sentenced to decades in prison. But Turkey’s economy is stagnating, and its inflation rate rose to seventy per cent during the past twelve months. In 2019, Erdogan’s party lost the mayoralty of Istanbul, which it had held since the nineteen-nineties. The TB2 is a spectacular propaganda machine, and Erdogan has used its success to promote his vision for Turkish society. As Bayraktar told me, “In this day and age, the biggest change in our lives is driven by technology—and who drives the changes? The ones who create technology.”

Bayraktar and his family live on Baykar’s grounds, which he compared to a university campus, with sports facilities and a park that he called “bigger than Google’s.” While we spoke, his mother, Canan; Sümeyye; and the couple’s four-year-old daughter, also named Canan, were eating dinner in an adjacent room. Bayraktar told me that he was one of the oldest engineers at Baykar, and that many of the firm’s programmers are women. “My software side comes from my mother,” he said.

Bayraktar was born in Istanbul in 1979, the middle of three brothers. His father, Özdemir, the son of a fisherman, graduated from Istanbul Technical University and founded an auto-parts company; Canan, his mother, was an economist and a computer programmer in the punch-card era. The brothers were introduced to machine tools at an early age. “We were working, all throughout our childhood, in the factory,” Bayraktar told me. By the time he was a teen-ager, he was a competent tool-and-die-maker. Özdemir was also an amateur pilot, and as a boy Selçuk would survey Turkey’s splendid geography from the window of his father’s plane. “A small aircraft, it’s like sailing in there,” he told me. “You feel like a bird.” Bayraktar was soon building radio-controlled airplanes from kits, sometimes modifying them with his own designs. “I was hiding my model aircraft under my bed, and working on it secretly,” he said. “I should have been studying for my exams.”

Bayraktar’s radio-controlled aircraft prototypes impressed academic researchers. In 2002, after graduating from Istanbul Technical, he was recruited to the University of Pennsylvania. For his master’s degree, he flew two drones in formation at the Fort Benning Army base, in Georgia. Bayraktar then began a second master’s, at M.I.T., where he pursued the difficult and offbeat goal of trying to land a radio-controlled helicopter on a wall. His adviser, Eric Feron, remembered Bayraktar as a dedicated craftsman and an observant Muslim, with a passion for youth education. He recalled Bayraktar’s enthusiasm when he tutored Feron’s daughter in her mathematics homework, and the time he demonstrated his helicopter to a troop of Girl Scouts. “He was a good pilot,” Feron said. “But I did not understand all that he was after until I got invited to his wedding.”

While Bayraktar was a student, the United States was using Predator drones to strike targets in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bayraktar disapproved of U.S. foreign policy—“I was obsessed with Noam Chomsky,” he told me—and engaged in social activism with other graduate students, most of them foreigners. But he was drawn to the autonomous vehicles. While still enrolled at M.I.T., he began building small prototype drones at the family’s factory in Istanbul.

Özdemir set out to secure government support for Selçuk’s drones. Özdemir was friendly with Necmettin Erbakan, an Islamic nationalist and a vitriolic critic of Western culture. Turkey had been a secular republic since the nineteen-twenties, but Erbakan, a professor of mechanical engineering, believed that by investing in industry and grooming technological talent the country could become a prosperous Islamic nation. In 1996, Erbakan had been elected Turkey’s Prime Minister, but he resigned from the post under pressure from the armed forces, and was banned from politics for threatening to violate Turkey’s constitutional separation of religion and the state. (Erbakan, who had developed connections with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, blamed his ouster on “Zionists.”)

Bayraktar briefed Erbakan on his work, and by the mid-two-thousands Bayraktar was spending his school breaks embedded with the Turkish military. The Bayraktar family also had ties to Erbakan’s protégé, Erdogan, who was elected Prime Minister in 2002. Bayraktar’s father had been an adviser to Erdogan when he was a local politician in Istanbul, and Bayraktar recalled Erdogan visiting the family house.

Bayraktar’s first drone, the hand-launched Mini U.A.V., weighed about twenty pounds. In early tests, it flew about ten feet, but Bayraktar refined the design, and soon the Mini could stay aloft for more than an hour. Bayraktar tested it in the snowy mountains of southeastern Anatolia, surveilling the armed rebels of the P.K.K., a Kurdish separatist movement. Feron recalled his astonishment when he contacted Bayraktar in the mountains. “He has no hesitation to go to the front lines, to really the worst conditions that the Turkish military can go into, and basically be with them, and live with them, and learn directly from the user,” he said. Bayraktar told me he prefers to field-test a drone in an active combat theatre. “It needs to be battle-hardened and robust,” he said. “If this doesn’t work at ten-thousand-feet elevation, at minus-thirty-degrees temperature, then this is just another item that you have to carry in your backpack.”

Bayraktar began developing a larger drone. In 2014, he débuted a prototype of the TB2, a propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft large enough to carry munitions. That year, Erdogan, who was facing term limits as Prime Minister, won the Presidential election. A popular referendum had given him control of the courts as well, and he began using his powers to prosecute political enemies. “They arrested not only a quarter of active-duty admirals and generals but also many of Erdogan’s civil-society opponents,” Soner Cagaptay, who has written four biographies of Erdogan, told me. Bayraktar dedicated his prototype to the memory of Erdogan’s mentor, Erbakan. “He gave all his life’s work to changing the culture,” Bayraktar said. (In his posthumously published memoirs, Erbakan asserted that, for the past four hundred years, the world has secretly been governed by a coalition of Jews and Freemasons.)

In December, 2015, Bayraktar oversaw the first tests of the TB2’s precision-strike capability. Using a laser to guide dummy bombs, the drone was able to strike a target the size of a picnic blanket from five miles away. By April, 2016, the TB2 was delivering live munitions. The earliest targets were the P.K.K.—drone strikes have killed at least twenty of the organization’s leaders, along with whoever was standing near them. The strikes also taught Bayraktar to fight for the airwaves. Drones are controlled through radio signals, which opponents can jam by broadcasting static. Pilots can counter by hopping frequencies, or by boosting the amplitude of their broadcast signal. “There’s so many jammers in Turkey, because the P.K.K. had been using drones, too,” Bayraktar said. “It’s one of the hottest places to fly.” Turkey’s remote-controlled counterinsurgency was thought to be the first time a country had conducted a drone campaign against citizens on its own soil, but Bayraktar, citing the threat of terrorism, remains an enthusiastic supporter of the campaign.

That May, he married the President’s daughter. More than five thousand people attended the wedding, including much of the country’s political élite. Sümeyye wore a head scarf and an immaculate long-sleeved white dress from the Paris designer Dice Kayek. By then, the Turkish state had taken on an overtly Islamic character. In the nineteen-nineties, the hijab was banned in universities and public buildings. Now “having a hijab-wearing wife is the surest way to get a job in the Erdogan administration,” Cagaptay wrote. Bayraktar regularly tweets Islamic blessings to his followers on social media, and both Sümeyye and the elder Canan wear the hijab.

Like Bayraktar, Sümeyye is a second-generation member of Turkey’s Islamist élite, and she graduated from Indiana University in 2005 with a degree in sociology. “She has great ethics,” Bayraktar told me. “She’s a real challenger.” Other people describe her as a fashionable, feminist upgrade on her father’s politics—a Turkish version of Ivanka Trump. “Women have lost significantly under Erdogan in terms of access to political power,” Cagaptay told me. “When there are women appointed in the cabinet, they have token jobs.”

In June, 2016, terrorists affiliated with isis killed forty-five people at the Istanbul airport, and soon a new front was opened in Syria, where Turkey used Bayraktar’s drones to attack the short-lived isis caliphate. (The drones were later turned on Syria’s Kurds.) In July, a small group inside the Turkish military staged a coup against Erdogan. The coup was chaotic and unpopular—the main opposition parties condemned it, a conspirator flying a fighter jet dropped a bomb on the Turkish parliament, and Erdogan was reportedly targeted by an assassination squad sent to his hotel. Erdogan blamed the followers of Fetullah Gülen, an exiled cleric and political leader who now lives in Pennsylvania, and purged more than a hundred thousand government employees. (Gülen denies involvement in the coup.) Bayraktar was now part of Erdogan’s inner circle, and his drones were marketed for export.

Bayraktar is a Turkish celebrity, and his social-media feeds are crowded with patriotic reply guys. When he gives talks to trainee pilots, which he does often, he wears a leather jacket decorated with flight patches; when he tours universities, which he also does often, he wears a blazer over a turtleneck. In our conversation, he referred to concepts from critical gender theory, spoke of Russia’s violations of international law, and quoted Benjamin Franklin: “Those who give up essential freedom for temporary security deserve neither security nor freedom.” But he is also an outspoken defender of Erdogan’s government. In 2017, Erdogan held a constitutional referendum that resulted in the dissolution of the post of Prime Minister, effectively enshrining his control of the state. Using politically motivated tax audits to seize independent media outlets, his government sold them in single-bidder “auctions” to supporters, and a number of journalists have been jailed for the crime of “insulting the President.” Erdogan frequently sues journalists, and Bayraktar has done so, too. He recently celebrated a thirty-thousand-lira fine levied against Çigdem Toker, who was investigating a foundation that Bayraktar helps run. Bayraktar tweeted, “Journalism: Lying, fraud, shamelessness.”

Bayraktar’s older brother, Haluk, is the C.E.O. of Baykar Technologies; Selçuk is the C.T.O. and the chairman of the board. (Their father died last year.) In addition to being used in Ukraine and Azerbaijan, TB2s have been deployed by the governments of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Qatar, Libya, Morocco, and Poland. When I spoke with Bayraktar, Baykar had just completed a sales call in East Asia, marketing its forthcoming TB3 drone, which can be launched from a boat.

Several news sources have reported that a single TB2 drone can be purchased for a million dollars, but Bayraktar, while not giving a precise figure, told me that it costs more. In any event, single-unit figures are misleading; TB2s are sold as a “platform,” along with portable command stations and communications equipment. In 2019, Ukraine bought a fleet of at least six TB2s for a reported sixty-nine million dollars; a similar fleet of Reaper drones costs about six times that. “Tactically, it’s right in the sweet spot,” Bayraktar said of the TB2. “It’s not too small, but it’s not too big. And it’s not too cheap, but it’s not too expensive.”

Once a fleet is purchased, operators travel to a facility in western Turkey for several months of training. “You don’t just buy it,” Mark Cancian, a military-procurement specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me. “You have married the supplier, because you need a constant stream of spare parts and repair expertise.” Turkey has become adept at leveraging this relationship. It struck a defense deal with Nigeria, which included training the country’s pilots on TB2s, in exchange for access to minerals and liquefied natural gas. In Ethiopia, TB2s were delivered after the government seized a number of Gülenist schools. Unlike dealing with the U.S., obtaining weapons from Turkey doesn’t involve human-rights oversight. “There are really no restrictions on use,” Cancian said.

Buyers are also supported by Baykar’s programmers. The TB2, which Bayraktar compares to his smartphone, has more than forty onboard computers, and the company sends out software updates several times a month to adapt to adversarial tactics. “You’ve seen the articles, probably, asking how World War One-performance aircraft can compete against some of the most advanced air defenses in the world,” Bayraktar said. “The trick there is to continuously upgrade them.”

Much of the drones’ battlefield experience has come against Russian equipment. Russia and Turkey have a complicated relationship: Russia is a key trading partner for Turkey, Turkey is a popular holiday destination for Russian tourists, and Russia is overseeing the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, which, when completed, will supply a tenth of the country’s electricity. In 2017, Turkey angered its allies in nato when it bought a Russian missile system, triggering U.S. sanctions. Still, both Turkey and Russia are seeking to restore their standings as world powers, and even before the war in Ukraine they were often in conflict.

In the Libyan civil war, Turkey and Russia backed opposing factions, and the TB2 faced off against Russia’s Pantsir-S1, an anti-aircraft system that shoots missiles at planes and can be mounted on a vehicle. At least nine Pantsirs were destroyed; so were at least twelve drones.

Another theatre opened in the Caucasus in 2020, when Azerbaijan attacked the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Last month, I met Robert Avetisyan, the Armenian representative to the United States from Nagorno-Karabakh, at a café in Glendale, California. Avetisyan told me, “During the first several days, Azerbaijan was not successful, in anything, until the Turkish generals took the joysticks.” Armenia has a security alliance with Russia, which provides most of its military equipment, some dating to the Soviet era. For six weeks, TB2 drones bombarded that equipment relentlessly; one independent analysis tallied more than five hundred targets destroyed, including tanks, artillery, and missile-defense systems. “We lost the air war,” Avetisyan said. TB2s also targeted Armenian troops, and footage of these strikes was shared by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. A six-minute compilation of the videos, posted to YouTube midway through the war, shows dozens of variations on the same scene: Armenian soldiers, cowering in trenches or huddled around transport trucks, alerted to their impending death by the hiss of an incoming bomb before a blast sends their bodies hurtling through the air.

Avetisyan sent me a translated statement from Arthur Saryan, a twenty-seven-year-old veteran of the war. Saryan had been standing with a small deployment of soldiers when his unit was hit by a bomb at around two in the morning. “We had no idea that we were the target,” Saryan said. “We heard it only two or three seconds before it hit us.” The bomb created a fireball. “Everyone was burnt. All the bodies were burnt and the cars immediately caught fire.” Six soldiers were killed, and seven were wounded. “It was a horrible scene,” Saryan said.

Bayraktar’s TB2 drones fly slowly, and their propellers should be easy to locate. But in Nagorno-Karabakh the drones seemed to evade enemy reconnaissance, either through radar jamming or through technical incompetence. “A striking feature of the video clips was the utter helplessness of the doomed systems,” the Israeli missile expert Uzi Rubin wrote, after reviewing Azerbaijani footage of precision air strikes. “Some were seen being destroyed with their radar antennas still rotating, searching in vain for targets.” The Azerbaijanis also deliberately triggered enemy radar by flying unmanned crop dusters at Armenian positions. If the Armenian missile launchers took the bait, revealing their location, they were destroyed by TB2s.

Turkey and Azerbaijan share close linguistic and political ties, but the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict represented a new level of coöperation. “There’s such cultural affinity between the Azerbaijanis and the Anatolian Turks—they say, ‘One nation, two states,’ ” Outzen, the former State Department specialist, told me. “Now they’re starting to say, ‘One nation, two states, one army.’ ” This is bad news for Armenia, which is wedged between the two. Turkey has not acknowledged its role in the Armenian genocide of 1915, and the Azerbaijani President, Aliyev, has referred to Armenia as “a territory artificially created on ancient Azerbaijani lands.”

Such claims have led the influential Armenian diaspora to block Western components from being used in Bayraktar’s drones, through both congressional action in the U.S. and pressure on manufacturers. But an analysis of a downed TB2 in Nagorno-Karabakh revealed that the aircraft was using a G.P.S. transponder made by the Swiss manufacturer Garmin. The company issued a statement saying that it had no supply relationship with Baykar, and that the transponder was commercially available. Nevertheless, Bayraktar has sought to reduce his reliance on Western components; in a recent Instagram post, he claimed that ninety-three per cent of the TB2’s components were now manufactured in Turkey. Bayraktar’s development cycle has a D.I.Y. element that can make the Pentagon’s practices seem out of date. “Our services are so culturally tied to a cumbersome acquisition process,” Andy Milburn, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told me. “What he’s doing is so modular, so replaceable.” Feron, Bayraktar’s graduate adviser, recalled the aftermarket modifications that Bayraktar made to store-bought drones. “Sometimes in the aerospace industry they do a lot of simulations, but they never touch the machine,” Feron said. “He’s much more of a builder.”

Last October, Ukraine announced that it was constructing a factory outside Kyiv to assemble Bayraktar’s drones. Shortly afterward, Ukraine released video of a TB2 conducting a strike against an artillery position in the contested eastern region of Donbas. The Air Force colonel who runs Ukraine’s drone program has not revealed his identity, citing security concerns, but in 2019 he travelled to Baykar’s facility in western Turkey for three months of training. “I loved it there,” he told Al-Monitor, an online newsletter.

“The acquisition of certain systems—like the TB2 and the American Javelin anti-tank missile—may actually further incentivize a Russian invasion instead of deterring one,” the military analyst Aaron Stein wrote in a prescient blog post in December. In February, Russia invaded.

The early days of the war looked like a repeat of Nagorno-Karabakh. Publicly available footage suggests that TB2s destroyed at least ten Russian missile batteries and disrupted the Russian supply lines by bombing transport trucks. In the past few weeks, though, the release of strike videos has slowed. This may be due to security concerns, but it’s also possible that the Russians have caught up—the TB2 has no real defense against a fighter jet, and in the lead-up to the invasion the Russian military trained against the drones. In early March, Ukrainian officials announced that they were receiving another shipment from Baykar; by the end of the month, a tally of press releases showed that Russia claimed to have shot down thirty-nine TB2s, which would likely constitute the bulk of the Ukrainian fleet. Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, was initially enthusiastic about the TB2, but in April, at a press conference in a Kyiv subway station, he downplayed the aircraft’s importance. “With all due respect to Bayraktar, and to any hardware, I will tell you, frankly, this is a different war,” he said. “Drones may help, but they will not make the difference.” Still, a couple of weeks before, Alexey Yerkhov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, had complained about the sale. “Explanations like ‘business is business’ won’t work, since your drones are killing our soldiers,” Yerkhov said, in remarks addressed to the Turkish government.

In our conversation, Bayraktar condemned Russia’s actions but declined to discuss operational specifics. “Let’s not put any of these countries at risk,” he said. “If any poor Ukrainian was hurt, I would be very sad. I would be responsible on the day of judgment.” Bayraktar’s software upgrades respond to customer feedback, and his designs continue to evolve. His latest production drone, the twin-prop Akinci, can fly to forty thousand feet and can be equipped with jamming countermeasures. In March, he tweeted a picture of the prototype for Baykar’s first jet, the Kizilelma, which resembles an autonomous F-16 without a cockpit. (In addition to the military vehicles, there is also the Cezeri, a human-size quadcopter, which Bayraktar has termed a “flying car.”)

Bayraktar is also investing in autonomy, and told me that he was ahead of the competition in this area. “That’s what our expertise is,” he said. “Push a button, and the aircraft lands.” An autonomous drone might find its way home if its communication links were severed. To develop such systems, Bayraktar will need to retain programming talent, but Erdogan’s regime is struggling against brain drain. “I, personally, know a whole bunch of people who have left,” Cagaptay said. “In Turkey, they don’t see a future for themselves.”

“Sometimes oppression is worse than death,” Bayraktar told me. He was referring to Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against the Russian invasion, but, a month after we talked, the Turkish civil-rights campaigner Osman Kavala was sentenced to life in prison, after a politically motivated trial that Amnesty International called a “travesty of justice.” On May 1st, the Ukrainian defense ministry resumed releasing footage from Bayraktar’s drones, showing them striking a pair of Russian patrol boats. Another video released that day showed Ukrainian soldiers, against a backdrop of destroyed Russian vehicles, dancing, laughing, and singing Bayraktar’s name. ?

The Turkish Drone That Changed the Nature of Warfare | The New Yorker

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (2967)5/22/2022 6:37:26 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
3 Recommendations   of 3126
 
How does the Turkish drone bayraktar tb2 work


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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (2968)5/22/2022 2:14:22 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 3126
 
Drones Are Turning Into Personal Flying Machines

We were promised jetpacks that never arrived. But you know what’s finally here? Big, honking drones you can ride on.

Live Thompson
Wired
May 17, 2022q

EVER SINCE HE was a kid in Sweden, Peter Ternström wanted to make a sci-fi-style flying machine. In 1983 he saw Return of the Jedi five times and dreamed of zooming through the forest of Endor on a levitating speeder. But as a smart young nerd he quickly realized a hovering vehicle wasn’t possible.

“There was no propulsion system that worked,” he recalls with a sigh. Sure, people had been trying to make personal flying devices for decades—most notably jetpacks. But jetpack physics was a nightmare. Strapping an explosive tank of fuel to your body and trying not to burn your legs off? Not really a scalable solution to personal mobility.

So Ternström shelved his youthful dream and went on to become a dotcom millionaire by building an online learning platform and the Swedish version of Mailchimp. Flying cars, not gonna happen.

Except that technology evolves in a funny way. While Ternström was doing those dotcom firms, a different flying technology was emerging, one that didn’t have the problems of jetpacks: drones.

When they first went mainstream in the ’00s, drones were mere toys, wobbly and difficult to fly, with batteries that died in minutes. But as demand from hobbyists and enthusiasts grew, so did the quality of the parts. Motors got better, and batteries became longer-lasting. Tilt sensors became cheap and high quality, and open-source coders wrote software that made drones self-stabilizing and thus easy to fly with zero training.

In 2012, Ternström met up with an old friend who’d been building drones to carry cameras for Hollywood movie production. Ternström joined him to work on some of the shoots, and as he watched the drones fly around, Ternström started thinking: Huh, why not just make a really big drone, strap a seat on it, and carry a human?

So he and his partner did. They formed Jetson, a company that is now selling its first model of an honest-to-goodness, hovering personal aircraft: the Jetson ONE, a $92,000 contraption made of lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber, eight drone propellers, and scores of batteries. In videos, Ternström zooms along the Italian countryside about six feet aboveground, looking eerily like that Endor speeder he’d once dreamed of.



“Flying it is a profoundly ecstatic experience,” he tells me. “All your bird DNA from from millions of years ago kicks in and goes, ‘Whoa, wait a second, I've done this before!’” His company has 320 pre-orders, he adds, which he aims to begin delivering by the end of 2023. The buyers are mostly “high-profile people from California. I’m not going to say ’Mark Zuckerberg,’ but, you know, around that circle.”

Ternström is one of the first to have a drone-style flying machine for sale, but he’s hardly alone. Dozens of firms worldwide are now making “ electrical vertical takeoff and landing” (eVTOL) vehicles. Their goal is to introduce vehicles and gradually improve them such that, in 10 years, you could zip from downtown to the airport in one—since unlike planes they need no runway, and are so heavily software-guided that pilots would need little skill. (A few of these firms aim to have their crafts remotely piloted, or to fly autonomously.) Some models shift the propellers sideways once in flight, so they cruise airplane-style.

For eons, sci-fi illustrations depicted people zipping around cities in little flying vehicles. Now those Golden Age fliers might finally be arriving—and “they’re just big drones,” says Chris Anderson, a longtime drone pioneer and COO of eVTOL firm Kittyhawk (and WIRED’s former editor in chief).

Consider this a lesson in innovation: Big breakthroughs don’t always come from where you’d expect.

We often think the biggest innovations spring from brilliant people gathered in a lab or corporation—designers at Apple crafting the smartphone, the wonks at OpenAI coding GPT-3, the Tesla engineers building a truly elegant electric car. But just as often, maybe more often, innovation is the result of hobbyist weirdos tinkering on stuff that seems silly or toylike. It’s precisely because those environments are low-stakes that hackers and enthusiasts can gradually improve the core technologies, until suddenly they’re ready to do wildly more ambitious things.

Drone-car experiments burbled up in this way. Jeff Elkins, an electrical engineer and founder of Dragon Air, built his own flying device back in 2011 by arranging drone propellers on a platform. You stand on it, hold onto a couple poles, and lean to steer it. “As unintuitive as it sounds, it's actually a great way to fly,” he tells me. His test pilot has done flights lasting as long as 20 minutes.

The idea of humans piloting flying cars might seem nuts—we’re lousy enough drivers in two dimensions. Adding a third seems ill advised. But software innovations from years of making drones easy to pilot has automated away most of the hard stuff of flying, says Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter.

“Our first test pilot, on his first flight, his comment was, ‘This was the most boring maiden flight ever,’” Reuter tells me. You don’t have to worry about keeping stable or reacting to sudden gusts of wind; the software takes care of that. You just use the joystick-like controls to point where you want to go. “You don't need any piloting skills,” he says.

Making a flier out of drone parts has other advantages, which is safety through redundancy: A single propeller can fail while the others keep going. And if something goes really wrong? Several firms put ballistic parachutes in their machines. The HEXA, a flying machine by Lift Aircraft, has one that executives say will pop out so fast it’ll save passengers from a height as low as 40 feet. The Jetson ONE also has a ballistic parachute, though Ternström says you’d have to be at least 100 feet in the air for it to really save you. He expects most Jetson ONE riders will stick close to the ground, where in an accident you’d be saved not by the parachute but by the roll cage.

“You're going to break an arm. It's going to be painful, but you're not going to die,” Ternström says.

So: Sci-fi flying vehicles can be built. Will they really change how we travel around, though? That’s a different question, because it’s not about technology but regulation—which necessarily moves a lot more slowly.

Right now, the only drone cars you could legally fly are the ones so lightweight that they qualify as “ultralights.” (The Jetson ONE, the HEXA, and Jeff Elkins’ craft all count.) With an ultralight you don’t even need a pilot’s license, though they can’t be flown over congested areas. So the first crop of drone cars is essentially for joyrides.

For now, anyway. Many firms such as Kitty Hawk, Volocopter, or China’s EHang are already building bigger vehicles that hold many passengers—some that fly fully autonomously—with the intent of creating full-on air taxis that flit us around cities. The Federal Aviation Administration will spend a decade or more approving those, mind you, assuming they ever do. But in the meantime, one thing is clear: Drones have grown up—into something quite unexpected.

Drones Are Turning Into Personal Flying Machines | WIRED

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From: Glenn Petersen5/22/2022 4:35:45 PM
1 Recommendation   of 3126
 
Where the billions spent on autonomous vehicles by U.S. and Chinese giants is heading

PUBLISHED SAT, MAY 21 202210:31 AM EDT
UPDATED SAT, MAY 21 202212:01 PM EDT
Rebecca Fannin @RFANNIN
CNBC.com

KEY POINTS

-- Despite its promise, a future full of autonomous vehicles still seems like a distant fantasy.

-- But tech giants, automakers, and start-ups from the U.S. and China, including Ford, GM, Baidu, Tesla, and Alphabet, have invested billions of dollars and years of R&D into making it a reality.

-- Robotaxis seems like a good bet to be first to make it to market in a major way. As one expert said, “Ride-hailing is a lousy business model with unhappy human drivers and urban mobility problems.”



An Apollo Robotaxi runs at Shougang Park as Baidu launches China’s first driverless taxi service in the city on May 2, 2021 in Beijing, China. / He Luqi | Qianlong.com | Visual China Group | Getty Images
----------------------------------------

For years, Alphabet’s Waymo and others leaders have promised autonomous vehicles are just around the bend. But that future has not arrived yet. Why not?

“In one word, it’s complexity,” said James Peng, CEO and co-founder of Pony.ai, an autonomous vehicle company. “Every time there is a technical breakthrough, there are challenges. We have the AI, the fast computer chips, the sensors. It’s all solvable by fitting all the pieces together smoothly. 99.9% is not good enough to perfect the technology.”
Despite promises of life-saving, climate-change fighting, and cost-efficient driving, the reality is that “the autonomous vehicle nirvana is 10 years out,” said Michael Dunne, CEO of autotech consultancy ZoZoGo. “While it’s not impossible to get there, even the most advanced technologies are not there yet and used mainly in confined areas where things are predictable. We are far, far away from universal acceptance.”

Not only that, but “the business model is a bigger challenge than the technology,” he said.

Self-driving vehicles without steering wheels or brake pedals have been slow to scale and are viewed by many as a novelty. Additional road tests are needed to work out tech glitches. Regulations to permit driverless vehicles are still evolving by city, state, and country. High price tags hovering above $100,000 for an AV-equipped auto are a drawback to individual purchases for most buyers. Commercialization is still underway. Safety concerns remain, particularly after a fatal crash in March 2018 involving one of Uber’s vehicles in Tempe, Arizona and multiple incidents involving Teslas being operated in self-driving mode.

Still, market leaders are betting big on smarter transit technology and are testing its viability, logging thousands of road miles to train self-driving algorithms and AI sensors to drive better than humans in all kinds of weather and unpredictable circumstances. Tech giants, automakers, and start-ups including GM’s Cruise, Waymo, Baidu, and others have invested billions of dollars and years of R&D in this emerging market poised to reach 12% of new car registrations globally by 2030. Meanwhile, Tesla continues its work on its semi-autonomous autopilot and self-driving systems.

Promising future for robotaxis, robo-deliverys
Now after a decade and some bumpy starts, it’s robotaxis, robot-driven deliveries, and autonomous trucks that are emerging as the most promising money-makers in the market.

“Ride-hailing is a lousy business model with unhappy human drivers and urban mobility problems. The next great thing could be fleets of robotaxis,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan where he focuses on entrepreneurship and technology. He envisions urban streets without accidents, honking, traffic jams, and dedicated lanes for self-driving vehicles.

In this next phase of passengers and road testing, the technical complexities are growing with unpredictable traffic patterns and weather factors such as fog and rain, plus lingering social awareness and acceptance issues.

“It will still require a significant amount of time for autonomous driving to be commercialized on a large scale,” said Dong Wei, vice president and chief safety operation officer of Baidu Intelligent Driving Business Group in Beijing.

Paid passenger fares in fully driverless robotaxis could be the next step toward the commercial development of this transformative market.

Pony.ai, which ranked No. 10 on the 2022 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, along with Baidu in Beijing, have led the industry in launching fare-charging robotaxis for the public in China. The two companies started charging fares last November in Beijing for their robotaxi services, which have a safety driver monitoring the ride. Additionally, Pony.ai is starting a paid taxi service this May featuring 100 AVs as traditional taxis within the Nansha district of Guangzhou. Both also have been testing AVs and robotaxis in the U.S., although Pony.ai’s driverless tests were suspended in California after a vehicle hit a lane divider and street sign in Fremont.

China is targeting smart transportation as a national growth strategy and has designated several sections of major cities for testing. “If you are looking for the perfect place to test autonomous driving, it is hard to beat China for its ambition,” said Dunne.

While the Chinese and U.S. markets are developing closely in parallel, given heightened U.S.-China tech innovation competition and restrictions on cross-border investment, one plausible scenario is “two global ecosystems, one that is China-led and one that is U.S.-led with their respective systems and governments,” Dunne said. “China does not want U.S. companies vacuuming up data and China testing in the U.S. faces the same issue. Chinese AV companies are likely to maintain R&D in the U.S. but deploy in China for China.”

In the U.S., industry leaders Waymo and Cruise expect to soon launch their own paid driverless robotaxis in San Francisco after several months of testing rides with employees. Additionally, Waymo plans to expand its fee-charging driverless rides to downtown Phoenix after pilots in late 2018 for paying customers in suburban Chandler.



Argo AI begins driverless operations in Miami and Austin. / Courtesy: Argo AI
----------------------

Ford and VW-backed Argo-AI have begun operating autonomous test vehicles without a human safety driver in Miami and Austin, Texas, moving around employees. Argo has been testing its self-driving technology on streets in eight cities across the U.S. and Europe, with some of its vehicles, with a human safety driver, being used by passengers in Miami Beach, Florida, through Lyft’s ride-sharing network. Lyft has a roughly 2.5% stake in the company.

Amazon-acquired start-up Zoox is custom testing its cube-like robotaxis in the Bay Area, Seattle, and Las Vegas, without initially charging for rides.

Billions bet by U.S. and Asian auto, tech giants

Chasing the opportunity, equity funding in AV tech companies eclipsed $12 billion in 2021, up more than 50% from 2020, according to CB Insights. The U.S. funding is dominated by Waymo, which topped out at $5.5 billion including from Alphabet, and by Cruise, which is backed with $10 billion from GM, Honda, and other investors, with a $5 billion line of credit from GM Financial. Pony.ai, co-founded by former Baidu AV lead developer Peng in 2016, is financed with $1.1 billion, including a $400 million investment from Toyota.

Start-ups in the AV space have piggybacked on major automakers and ride-hailing services, for instance, Motional, formed in 2021 through a joint venture with Hyundai and pilots with Lyft. Uber sold its self-driving unit, the Advanced Technologies Group, to Aurora Innovation, after Uber’s co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick had touted self-driving as a priority. Aurora, invested in by Amazon, Hyundai, and venture firms Sequoia Capital and Greylock, is working on launching a commercial robotic truck system by late 2023, followed by a robotaxi project.

Several other market segments are being carved out as differentiators by companies developing commercial robotaxis. One of the more advanced as it seeks to diversify from its search and advertising core, Baidu is supplying its Apollo Go AV “brains” to robo-buses and other transit means in China while providing Apollo self-driving solutions to automakers. The monthly pricing of Apollo Go over five years is comparable to the labor cost of a ride-hailing driver in major cities in China, a Baidu spokesperson said. The company is also selling intelligent transportation solutions with projects in 34 Chinese cities, for improving traffic conditions, road safety, and air quality. Baidu has further teamed up with Geely (Chinese owners of Volvo) to fund its intelligent electric vehicle business JIDU and mass-produce a robocar for launch in 2023.

Production of robo-vehicles is costly but pursued as another strategy to commercialize the market. Cruise has partnered with GM and Honda to mass-produce the Origin, an all-electric self-driving, shared vehicle due out within a few years from GM’s Factory Zero assembly plant in Detroit. Amazon-owned Zoox has built dozens of custom-built, electric, autonomous robotaxis at its plant in Fremont, rolling out gradually. Waymo is expanding its current ride-hail fleet of I-Pacers and Chrysler Pacifica hybrids made in Detroit and collaborating with Chinese automaker Geely to equip its all-electric, purpose-built AVs for U.S. roads in the coming years. Pony.ai recently unveiled its sixth-generation autonomous driving system, expecting to equip a seven-seat Toyota Sienna model and begin road testing in China this year with robotaxis following in 2023.

Robot-powered delivery services are also emerging as a viable path toward commercial scale and profitability. Cruise has partnered with Walmart in the Phoenix area to deliver groceries, and plans to expand the service nationally, said Gil West, Cruise chief operating officer. Nuro, a Silicon Valley robotics start-up in autonomous delivery, is test driving a bot service to Walmart and Kroger customers in several cities, and recently added 7-Eleven customers in Mountain View. Uber began pilots this month of food deliveries by sidewalk robots and self-driving cars in Los Angeles.

For Zoox, supplying Amazon with last-mile deliveries from its shuttles is a possible scenario. “We haven’t rule this out as a use case,” said Jesse Levinson, Zoox CTO and co-founder. “Our business model is charging people money to take a ride. The biggest cost of a ride-sharing vehicle is the driver. We can amortize the cost of the vehicle by these fares over five years.”

It may seem counterintuitive, but the AV long-haul trucking space is moving perhaps the fastest in this evolving market. Jim Scheinman, founding managing partner at Maven Ventures and an early investor in Cruise, noted that Embark Truck and other AV trucking companies will help the trillion-dollar market in many ways. “Not only by keeping our freight costs substantially lower which will continue to be so important in a world of continued supply chain issues and inflation, but also in helping the long haul trucking labor shortages as well as being so much more environmentally friendly,” Scheinman said. “Massive wins for everyone and the planet,” he added.

One newcomer is Pittsburgh-based Locomation, a hybrid semi-autonomous technology for two-truck convoys, with a driver in the lead vehicle monitoring the ride while another is off-duty in the follower truck, taking a rest. “With trucking in demand for freight and a driver shortage, this helps to solve a pain point,” said Cetin Mericli, a co-founder of Locomation, which has been testing with three national trucking customers. “This system can double the efficiency of the drivers, keep the trucks running more often, and speed up deliveries,” he said. “In a very 2020 fashion, our inaugural autonomous delivery was a trailer full of TP.”

Where the billions spent on driverless cars by US and China is heading (cnbc.com)

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From: Glenn Petersen5/24/2022 7:37:20 AM
2 Recommendations   of 3126
 
Walmart expands its drone-delivery service to reach 4 million households

PUBLISHED TUE, MAY 24 20226:00 AM EDT
UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Melissa Repko @MELISSA_REPKO
CNBC.com

KEY POINTS

-- Walmart is expanding drone deliveries across six states with operator DroneUp, bringing its total network to 37 sites by year-end.

-- The big-box retailer said it will be able to deliver items like batteries and Hamburger Helper to 4 million households in parts of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

-- Walmart has been testing how drone deliveries could drive e-commerce growth and turn stores into a way to outmatch Amazon on speed.

Walmart is expanding drone delivery across six states this year, making it possible for many more customers to get a box of diapers or dinner ingredients delivered in 30 minutes or less.

Through an expansion with operator DroneUp, the big-box retailer said it will be able to reach 4 million households in parts of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. The deliveries by air will be fulfilled from a total of 37 stores — with 34 of those run by DroneUp.

It announced its plans for growth on Tuesday in a blog post. Walmart currently offers drone deliveries from a few stores near its headquarters in northwest Arkansas and in North Carolina.

Walmart has been testing how the small, unmanned aircraft could change the game for retail, drive e-commerce growth and turn its stores into a way to outmatch Amazon on speed. Two years ago, it struck deals with three operators — Flytrex, Zipline and DroneUp — and began pilot projects to deliver groceries, household essentials and at-home Covid-19 test kits to customers. The company declined to share terms of the deals.

The new kind of delivery is an extension of Walmart’s strategy to use its huge physical footprint as a competitive edge. About 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of one of Walmart’s more than 4,700 stores. Through those stores, Walmart has offered a growing list of fast online options including curbside pickup; InHome, which delivers directly to customers’ fridges; and Express Delivery, which drops items at doorsteps in two hours or less.

Customers who live within the range of a Walmart drone-delivery site can order any of thousands of items between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Each drone delivery comes with a $3.99 fee. Customers can order items totaling up to 10 pounds.

Each order is picked, packaged and loaded at the store and flown remotely by a certified pilot to the customer’s yard or driveway. A cable on the drone slowly lowers the package.

Orders must be placed on DroneUp’s website or through the websites of the two other operators. Walmart said it plan to eventually add the order-placing capability to its own website and app.

With the larger network of sites, Walmart will be able to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year, David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation for Walmart U.S., said in the blog post.

One of the surprises of the drone tests has been what customers order, he added. Walmart anticipated customers would use the drones to get emergency items, such as over-the-counter medication, Guggina said. Instead, he said, many have used it for convenience. At one store, for instance, the top seller for drone delivery is Hamburger Helper.

Other frequent items delivered by drone are batteries, trash bags, laundry detergent and Welch’s fruit snacks, the company said.

Walmart will use the drones to make money in another way, too. It said it plans to offset the cost of deliveries by selling photographs taken by drones to municipalities and local business, such as construction or real estate companies. The revenue will be split with the drone operator.

Walmart expands drone-delivery service to reach 4 million households (cnbc.com)

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (2971)5/25/2022 1:57:12 AM
From: Savant
1 Recommendation   of 3126
 
This part of Walmart drone delivery verges on Surveillance>>> Or certainly invasion of privacy...IMO

Walmart will use the drones to make money in another way, too. It said it plans to offset the cost of deliveries

by selling photographs taken by drones to municipalities and local business, such as construction or real estate companies.

The revenue will be split with the drone operator.

**or sell to anyone or any entity that will pay??? And will they keep a copy of all of the photos for their own use?? Most likely

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From: Glenn Petersen5/25/2022 7:53:04 AM
2 Recommendations   of 3126
 
We Need a New Law to Counter Domestic Drone Threats

The White House sent Congress a plan to protect Americans. It’s not a moment too soon for lawmakers to act.

BY LIZ SHERWOOD-RANDALL
HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR
Defense One
MAY 24, 2022 04:48 PM ET

Drones have changed how we work, play, and do business in America. Every day, they help deliver packages, inspect pipelines, monitor crops, carry out search-and-rescue operations, and perform a myriad of other beneficial tasks. But drones also pose growing risks to our public safety and national security.

Outside the United States, weaponized drones have already been used to attack heads of state and government officials: the prime minister of Iraq in November, the president of Venezuela in August 2018, and a public safety secretary in Mexico in July 2017. Mexican drug cartels have used commercial drones to attack law enforcement officers and civilians. In January, news sites showed vivid footage of a drone dropping four explosive devices on a drug cartel camp in the state of Michoacán, an attack attributed to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which is considered the country's most dangerous and powerful. They have also been used against U.S. troops and interests.

Inside the United States, criminals and other malicious actors are increasingly using drones to conduct illegal surveillance and industrial espionage, facilitate criminal activities, target critical infrastructure, and smuggle drugs across our southern border.

The trend is clear: the domestic threat posed by drones is real. We can’t afford to wait to act.

To lead in meeting the nation’s growing need, the Biden administration recently released the first whole-of-government plan to counter threats from drones. The Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan outlines eight actions we will pursue to close critical gaps in policy and law that directly impede our ability to defend our vital national-security interests while balancing the need to secure the airspace, protect civil rights and civil liberties, and advance commercial innovation.

We Need a New Law to Counter Domestic Drone Threats - Defense One

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