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Video: Power Line Perching UAV Doubles Down on Drone Delivery

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Elizabeth M
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Drone delivery
Elizabeth M   7/8/2014 11:05:15 AM
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This is an interesting invention, as it could help Amazon with its drone delivery service. Then again, if Amazon isn't interested, it could certainly have a number of other applications. With UAVs moving out of the battlefied and into the commercial realm, new technology from MIT and other experts will become integral to new uses for them.

naperlou
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Re: Drone delivery
naperlou   7/8/2014 11:56:52 AM
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Elizabeth, I heard that the drone delivery would not be authorized by the government.  I, for one, would not want a lot of these circling overheard in my neighborhood. 

Elizabeth M
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Re: Drone delivery
Elizabeth M   7/9/2014 2:41:04 AM
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Is this definitely true, Lou? I think the idea deserves some looking into and coverage if so. I'll have a look online and see. If that's true, then I'm sure this technology can be used for something else.

Genius
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Re: Drone delivery
Genius   7/9/2014 6:15:26 PM
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The FAA is currently proposing that any sUAS will be treated as a commercial aircraft if that is used for any potential commercial use.  In this federal register notice it specifically calls out delivering packages, and even if the delivery is free, it is still commercial.  As no such laws/rules exist that regulate sUAS systems, it effectively bans all UAV/UAS technology for commercial purposes.

http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=16474

My biggest objection to the FAA's arguement that it must regulate the sUAS commercial flights is to "protect the safety of the National Airspace System", but in all of the examples given the only differece between hobby and "Not Hobby" (ie, commercial) is the acceptance of compensation.  If that is the ONLY difference, just how does this make our airspace SAFER?  I just don't see how a hobby aircraft with exactly the same airframe, operator, equipment, safety systems, and everything can be legal but once that person recieves compensation then it has to be "commercial certified" similar to passenger aircraft.

Pubudu
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Re: Drone delivery
Pubudu   7/24/2014 1:07:04 PM
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I also agree with you on this naperlou, this will take time to get authorized from the government. And also circling here and there is a hassle for everyone. 

HeliEye
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Re: Drone delivery
HeliEye   7/9/2014 10:47:41 AM
A novel idea, but in this demonstrated format, I wouldn't think it see the light of day?

This would suit the military 'flapping' wing bird types better, with there ability to hover, Concept video's of this type was published a year or so back.

I feel this would be much easier with a quad helicopter, two upright stiff wires, away from blades, with apposing direction hooks, (? shape back to back) quad hovers under power line with one hook each side of cable, turn quad so both wires are in contact with the cable, reduce altitude slightly, hooks at end drops onto power line easy.  In this position the quad would be balanced whilst charging.  To take off increase lift slightly rotate wires hooks away from power line, drop a few feet for clearance and away.

I would imagine these drones would be flown Fpv, so switch to a small camera to aid the hook-up from remote live video.

Steve

PaPaMuski
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Power Line Perch
PaPaMuski   7/9/2014 8:35:28 AM
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This is an interesting concept but begs many legal issues like who will pay for all this "free" energy; who is liable for an injury due to a mishap; will the FAA be responsible for controlling the air traffic congestion; how sill this work in foul weather.

As an engineer this looks exciting, but as a lawyer I can see a lot of problems.

naperlou
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Re: Power Line Perch
naperlou   7/9/2014 10:21:52 AM
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PaPaMuski, that is a great question.  All of these "ideas" seem to ignore legal questions about aspects like power in the power lines and the use of the airspace. 

Elizabeth M
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Re: Power Line Perch
Elizabeth M   7/10/2014 8:49:16 AM
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Yes,  PaPaMuski, that is often an issue that comes up when people want to harvest energy from power lines and the like. These are questions that need to be answered down the road as this technology evolves. But you're right, it's exciting to look at from a design and engineering perspective.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Power Line Perch
Elizabeth M   7/10/2014 8:49:18 AM
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Yes,  PaPaMuski, that is often an issue that comes up when people want to harvest energy from power lines and the like. These are questions that need to be answered down the road as this technology evolves. But you're right, it's exciting to look at from a design and engineering perspective.

Zippy
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Significant engineering challenges
Zippy   7/9/2014 9:10:14 AM
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This is a clever concept, but I am wondering how much power is required to get the drone (plus any cargo) back off the power line and flying from a dead stop.  Also, if for any reason you miss the landing, it would be a challenge to recover from essentially a stall condition without crashing.

fm
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Grab the Wire!
fm   7/9/2014 9:11:17 AM
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Power-scavenging or no, being able to grab onto a wire in midair is no small feat! It's not clear how much of that operation is autonomous and how much of it has human remote control behind it, but an autonomous grab is quite the control problem and would be pretty amazing.

I did have to chuckle when they said they had "briefly spoken" with Amazon. I can envision the conversation like: "Hey, do you want this? The concept works, but we don't have a product yet." "No." That's a brief conversation.  :-D   Kudos for trying, though.

Genius
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Good Idea using carbon fiber?
Genius   7/9/2014 7:20:14 PM
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Looking and reading about the aircraft I wonder if it ever came across the engineers minds that having a carbon fiber aircraft that is electrically conductive would be a bad idea to have landing on power lines.  Power lines regularly kill large numbers of birds of prey when the wings touch/span the lines or just simply land on the transformers.  Fiberglass would be much wiser choice.

William K.
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Re: Good Idea using carbon fiber?
William K.   7/9/2014 10:21:50 PM
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I can just imagine the exciting flash when that UAV lands on a 14.8 Kv power line the wrong way.

Besides that, and even a greater barrier to this idea, is tha fact that landing on a power line and getting power from it would certainly be classed as theft, unless there was some sort of agreement in place. And it would make lots more sense to have dedicated recharging perches up on some utility poles.

One other thing is that benefitting from the wind is a skill that some pilots have and probably not something that a computer flying a programed route could do.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Good Idea using carbon fiber?
Elizabeth M   7/10/2014 9:12:02 AM
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Yes, there are definitely challenges to this technology and the way it works, as you and others are pointing out, William K. The only thing I might disagree on is how skillful computer pilots can be. I think drones are highly sophisticated these days. In fact, one very esteemed engineer of them, Missy Cummings of Duke University (formerly of MIT), thinks they are safer and better than human pilots. So I wouldn't count them out of being able to use the wind as human pilots could.

William K.
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Re: Good Idea using carbon fiber?
William K.   7/10/2014 10:10:18 PM
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Elizabeth, it has been my experience that computerized things are unable to handle exceptions. But because I am not a pilot I don't know how much taking advantage of those updrafts depends on "feel". I know how to drift a fast car through a curve by feel, and it is not clear to me that any computer could ever do that. But possibly they can. 

You are right about some drone pilots, but I was talking about autonomus flight conditions. Quite different when it is a computer driving.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Good Idea using carbon fiber?
Elizabeth M   7/15/2014 7:02:45 AM
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You make some very good points, William K. It's true in some situations, it takes a human at the wheel to make the swift decision and adapt to conditions. I know systems are being developed to be as intelligent, but I'm not sure the tech is there just yet.

William K.
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Re: Good Idea using carbon fiber?
William K.   7/16/2014 8:53:15 PM
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Probably a computer system can be made to duplicate instincts, and possibly even to select a response based on a situation's context, but the computer system will never be able to make a correct decision in an exception situation. It may work as well as an inexperienced person but never as well as an individual running on experience and instincts. The flying environment is a bit safer than on the crowded roadways, just because there is a lot more room to move, and fewer fixed obstructions above the lower altitudes.

But in motor vehicles we will always have a portion of drivers who never make the best choice, and that will always be a challenge. Even worse if those are the folks who create the vehicle driveing algorithms. 

Elizabeth M
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Re: Good Idea using carbon fiber?
Elizabeth M   7/17/2014 5:50:12 AM
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You pose some interesting ideas and scenarios, William K. I guess the case can be made for either humans or computers being the best at the wheel depending on the scenario. There are definitely some cases in which I hope someone who has the ability to make snap judgments and decisions is controlling a car or airplane, but other times when human error would make a situation worse, so I think automation might be better. You might want to research the work of Missy Cummings, formerly of MIT and now at Duke University. She is doing a lot of research in this area.

tekochip
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Autopilot
tekochip   7/17/2014 9:42:11 AM
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There have been piloting errors caused by humans and caused by machines.  The latest series of air disasters have been caused by a combination of both, and the same theme has been repeated for decades.  Machines can't handle system exceptions well, and pilots are beginning to crash because of their over-reliance on automation.  In the case of Air France 447; I can't imagine the pilot pulling back on the yoke in a full power on stall, all the way to the ocean below in a scenario nearly identical to the 1996 Berginair 301 crash.  
 
Automation is a powerful tool, but it can't get the job done alone, and over-reliance on the systems has caused basic piloting skills to erode to the point of disaster.


Elizabeth M
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Re: Autopilot
Elizabeth M   7/21/2014 4:50:09 AM
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You raise a really good point, tekochip, about the effect of automation on actual piloting and driving skills. There are experts working to find a balance between these two things.

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