The EMILY USV from Hydronalix continues to gain traction

EMILY USVThe Duluth Fire Department in Duluth, Minnesota is considering purchasing the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving LanYard (EMILY) drone.

Hydronalix, located near Tucson, Arizona, created and manufactures the 24-pound unmanned water rescue vehicle.


EMILY functionality

The EMILY is a life-saving, unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that first responders can deploy and operate remotely to help reach distressed individuals.

Equipped with a two-way radio, the EMILY allows first responders to communicate with the person in need of assistance. The USV carries a detachable life-jacket and helmet and can assist up to eight people in distress.


Real-world application

Duluth Fire Capt. Brent Consie decided to test out the EMILY because of the city’s amount of shoreline. It is also one of the worst spots in the Great Lakes for rip currents. “One of our biggest concerns with rescue is with rip currents,” Consie said in an article from the Grand Forks Herald.

“When we’ve got an east wind or a wind that’s about 10 to 15 miles an hour, we have currents that actually flute water back off shore. So, people who find themselves caught in rip currents are often taken by surprise. People who are not familiar with our waters get into a situation where there’s potentially a drowning. We want to be able to get to them as fast as we possibly can.”


Testing the EMILY

At the end of July, the Duluth Fire Department, along with other area agencies, tested the USV during a mock rescue scenario. The scenario included two Duluth firefighters floated in the chilled waters of Lake Superior. Response time is even more vital because of the waters cold temperatures.

A firefighter on shore used a remote control to direct the movements of the USV, leading it to the firefighters in the water. Once the vehicle reached the firefighters, they latched onto a set of handles and were pulled to shore.

On average, the department has six water emergencies per year. Boats are currently the only vehicles available to rescue distressed swimmer. The EMILY may be a better alternative.


Technology advancements for the good

“Technology is always changing. This USV is a different approach because the drownings happen so fast and our conditions change so fast,” Consie says. “We’re looking at ways we can improve. How can we use technology to keep improving our delivery of services?”

In addition, Consie said that the USV allows first responders to reach someone in need of help faster than the department’s current capabilities. In scenarios where first responders need to rescue someone in the water, they can still deploy the USV so that the person can have something to hang on to while waiting for help.


U.S. Army to discontinue use of DJI for operations

US Army DJICyber vulnerabilities.

This is the reason given in a U.S. Army memo that orders troops to end all use of DJI drones for operations.

This a huge announcement, and was quite surprising, given that DJI drones are currently the Army’s top choice for an off-the-shelf UAS solution.

The memo released August 2, came from Lt. Gen. Joseph H. Anderson who serves as the Army’s deputy chief of staff for plans and operations. It states, “cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow on direction.”

The memo cited “increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products.” No other additional information was provided.


Off-the-shelf solution, no more?

Just as consumers have flocked to DJI drones, so too, the Army. Though not a battlefield drone, DJI drones are used in support of a variety of Army operations. In fact, the Army’s Aviation Engineering Directorate has issued over 300 separate Airworthiness Releases for DJI products in support of various missions.

This memo amends the existing Pentagon guidance for the domestic use of unmanned systems that was finalized in Feb. 2015.

So, what does this memo mean for Army units currently using DJI products?

For many, it’s a minor inconvenience. For others, a huge headache, in terms of identifying, securing, inventorying, and storing the drones. After all, the memo covers “any system that employs DJI electrical components or software including, but not limited to, flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, speed controllers, GPS units, handheld control stations, or devices with DJI software applications installed.”

The Army indicated that they’ve received this guidance memo and are reviewing it.


Impact on DJI

Clearly, the memo caught DJI unaware. The company said in a statement, “they were surprised and disappointed to read reports of the U.S. Army’s unprompted restriction on DJI drones.”

It also said the company was not consulted during the decision-making process. DJI plans to reach out to the U.S. Army to gain better understanding of the cyber security concerns.

Given the sensitive nature of Army operations, the memo is a step in the right direction as far as some cyber security experts are concerned.

Hackers exposed the vulnerabilities of the Phantom series – breaking in and manipulating the GPS software and disrupting “geofences” designed to keep the drone out of no-fly zones. Certainly, this raised alarm bells.

However, it was a request in May from DJI that appeared to really raise concerns. The request? Users need to register DJI products with the company. If not registered, the DJI product would suffer a decrease in speed and range…even the ability to stream video.

Industry insiders started to ask questions. If DJI corporation could manipulate that, what else could it do? Was the company sharing videos captured by these drones?

DJI denied any such activity. “When you fly a DJI drone,” DJI said in a statement in April 2016, “nobody but you can see the live video feed or the recorded video it generates – unless you decide otherwise.”


Uncertain future

DJI appears anxious to discuss and resolve any concerns the U.S. Army has about DJI products. Whether that conversation occurs, remains to be seen. And amid the lingering questions, one thing remains true: the Army’s go-to, off-the-shelf solution seems no more.



NuWaves’ new LS100A01 L & S-band PA offers significant range extension

NuWaves Engineering recently announced the release of the 100 Watt NuPower LS100A01 L & S-band Power Amplifier (PA). It is the latest in the company’s small, lightweight and high-efficiency PA family of products.

With its size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) profile, the NuPower LS100A01 provides significant range extension for communications systems, datalinks, and telemetry systems.

The PA also provides added power for electronic warfare systems such as airborne electronic attack (AEA) at low, medium, or high altitudes, and its low SWAP profile makes it ideal for medium-sized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“For the systems integrator that requires greater communications range, the NuPower LS100A01 will provide a significant improvement with its 100 Watts of output power.” said Jeff Wells, President and CEO of NuWaves Engineering.


The specifications

The NuPower LS100A01 provides saturated RF power of 100 Watts typical in L & S-band (frequency coverage from 1.6 GHz to 2.5 GHz), with module efficiencies of up to 45%.

With a nominal input drive level of 0 dBm, the NuPower LS100A01 offers 50 dB of RF gain, while weighing only 22.6 ounces.

Further, the PA’s aluminum chassis features improved heat dissipation characteristics for higher-temperature operation and, at a compact size of 6.5” x 4.5” x 1.0”, it is small enough to integrate into a wide variety of air- or ground-based tactical, test, or training platforms.

It’s expected release date is mid-September with units starting at $3,775 in quantities of 100.


About NuWaves Engineering

NuWaves Engineering is a veteran-owned, premier supplier of RF and Microwave solutions for Department of Defense (DoD), government, and industrial customers. An RF engineering powerhouse, NuWaves offers a broad range of design and engineering services related to the development and sustainment of key communications, telemetry and electronic warfare systems, as well as a complete line of commercially available RF products.


You can shop NuWaves Engineering line of small, lightweight and high-efficiency PA at Unmanned Systems Source.



FPV Goggles: Considerations Before You Buy

First-person-view (FPV) goggles are all the rage. FPV goggles, allow the wearer to see the flight and the surrounding environment through the drone’s camera.

FPV is an immersive perspective, to say the least, and a growing trend for drone operators beyond the quad-racer set.

So, if you’re thinking of purchasing FPV video goggles, there are a few critical elements users should consider before making a purchase.


FPV: flying made easier?

FPV goggles connect via WiFi to the camera mounted on the drone using a series of small adapters and frequencies. Basically, FPV goggles allow the wearer to see the flight and the surrounding environment through the drone’s camera.

This perspective is, of course, appealing to operators for several reasons. Drone operators find that FPV goggles make it easier to fly; obstructions are more easily navigated and shots are more easily captured. Before FPV goggles, certain shots were difficult if not impossible to capture because of the pilots need to see the drone at all times.


Field of View: larger is better

For the ultimate experience, experts recommend FPV goggles with the largest clear field of view (FOV). FOV is defined as “the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment.” As such, the larger the degree, the larger the field of view. Preferably, this view should extend to the corners of the display.

FPV goggles, on average, cover a view range between 37 to 60 degrees. For perspective, a 60-degree FOV is similar to watching a 125-inch screen in your living room. The larger the fields of view the more closely it matches the view of the drone camera. It also give the pilot a less distorted view which, of course, helps with flight operations.


The size and weight of goggles

FPV goggles range in size. Some are as small as a pair of sunglasses. Others are as big as a virtual reality headset. Usually, the larger the goggles the larger the viewing screen. However, the weight and comfort of the headset is also an important consideration.

Heavier goggles can be cumbersome and difficult to wear over long periods of time. Some users can even experience strain along the back of the neck, bridge of the nose, and eye sockets.

Smaller goggles are easier to wear but some can feel cheaply constructed. For those on the fence about this technology, purchasing a more affordable pair is a smart way to figure out if its a match or not. Some operators find that FPV goggles aren’t a great option for their flight and personal preferences.


Camera Controls

Some higher-end FPV goggles allow users to manipulate the camera settings – zoom, pan/tilt, the direction it points – if the camera mechanism allows. Keep in mind, not all FPV googles offer camera controls and the ones that do, range in functionality. Either way, the radio controller allows for camera control.

Some users prefer direct camera control via the goggles, others do not. One of the major drawbacks cited by users is the need to take a hand off the radio control, mid-flight, to make any needed camera or goggle display adjustments. Some operators prefer not to have that distraction.


FPV antenna and positioning

All FPV goggles are equipped with antennas and internal transmitters which allow the goggles to sync with the drone’s camera. Antennas are either internally or externally placed. The position of the antenna is vitally important. In fact, the antenna — and it’s position — is probably one of the most important considerations when choosing FPV Goggles.

Some FPV kits include antennas, which are most often cloverleaf antennas. Cloverleaf are omnidirectional, circular polarized antennas — which work very well for FPV. Of course, more experienced operators usually choose to alter the setup for a system geared to their particular needs.


Selecting for the application

One of the final considerations when selecting FPV goggles is application.

Racing and agile flight drone operators often choose larger headset style goggles. These also usually have more FOV settings from which to choose. FOV adjustments allow the operator to see more detail and a wider view which is useful for racing and acrobatic flight operations.

Also, FPV goggles with zero latency are crucial to experiencing flight with delay or lag. Quad racers tearing around the track at 80mph, cannot afford to have a delay in the video transmission — which translates into missed obstacles and crashes.

Smaller goggles are often the choice for everyday and videography operators. These applications require higher resolution and enhanced capture features so it is easier to get great shots. Often, these goggles have reduced FOV in exchange for a better output resolution.


Final considerations

Outside quad racing, adding FPV goggles to a system comes down to personal preference. Though some operators enjoy the immersive experience goggles provide, others simply do not. So, whether to FPV or not? The decision is up to you.




Automated FAA Authorizations for Drone Operators Coming Soon?

Automated FAA AuthorizationsBy the end of the year, several airports are expected to offer automated authorization for drone operators in controlled airspace. The rest of the nation’s airports will follow suit in 2018.

If successful, these automated authorizations will remove a significant barrier to the rapid expansion of commercial UAS operations.

Today, flights in controlled airspace, at certain times of day, or near sensitive locations require authorization from the FAA. Authorization requests can take up to 90 days and require labor-intensive manual approvals.

Today in Class G airspace, drone operations for real estate photography, building inspections, and agricultural monitoring are fairly commonplace. But if a commercial drone flight needs to occur in controlled airspace, drone pilots must wait up to 90 days to receive permission to fly from the FAA.

To address this challenge, the FAA reached out to a handful of companies. The goal? Help the FAA provide automated authorizations for safer and more efficient drone operations at scale.


Automated FAA Authorizations via LAANC

Called the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), the initiative allows drone operators to apply for digital authorization using applications already used for flight planning and in-flight situational awareness.

With automated authorization, drone operators will receive instant, digital approval to fly in much of our nation’s controlled airspace.

The start of LAANC began earlier this summer with the FAA’s release of UAS facility maps. These maps depicted specific areas and altitudes near 300+ airports where drone operators could request airspace authorization more effectively and efficiently.

AirMap, and the other LAANC partners, received this raw data and in turn translated it into a dynamic, digital map. Using tools like AirMap’s mobile app, drone operators can enter the details of their flight with just a few taps. In pre-approved flight areas, operators receive instant flight authorization.


Next Phase of LAANC

Now, 50 of the nation’s airports are prepared to provide LAANC authorization by the end of the year. This trial expansion offers a sneak peek at how Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) will work in the U.S. It also shows how companies, like AirMap, are helping make UTM possible for the commercial drone industry at scale.

The introduction of LAANC is a significant step. LAANC represents the first step in the implementation of UTM, the federated technological infrastructure that will facilitate data exchange and air traffic control for drones.

LAANC also demonstrates that the FAA can successfully embrace innovation and work with private sector providers to open more airspace to commercial drone operations.

When human approval is still required for flight, LAANC may cut wait times to as short as two weeks. If the flight needs review, the controller can assess and approve the flight via an easy-to-use dashboard provided by the LAANC provider.

Review the full list of airports to offer LAANC.


MicroPilot Integrates xNAV GNSS/INS into Autopilots for Greater Accuracy

MicroPilot recently announced the completion of work to integrate an OxTS xNAV miniature GNSS/INS system in to their UAV autopilots.

The interface allows MicroPilot systems to use the blended GNSS/IMU output of the INS in their flight control system. This integration provides accurate positioning.

“We were excited to work together with MicroPilot to develop an interface between our systems,” said Iain Clarke, Product Manager from OxTS. “As the UAV market continues to grow people are still discovering ways to take advantage of the platform. We hope this development brings new opportunities to customers looking for integrated systems and UAV navigation options.”


Designed for commercial UAV mapping

The xNAV is a miniature GNSS/INS system. It is designed for commercial UAV mapping applications that require precise geo-referencing capabilities.

For UAV based LiDAR, hyperspectral or thermal mapping, a survey-grade INS is crucial. It provides the accurate trajectory information needed to create 3D pointclouds, digital terrain models, and other maps. INS also enhances photogrammetry applications. In addition, it reduces the need for ground control points, lowers image processing time and removes jumps and gaps in data, saving time from reprocessing to fix errors.

While many autopilot systems have integrated GNSS, they are usually lower-grade, single frequency receivers only capable of 1-2 m accuracy.

By developing an interface with OxTS systems, MicroPilot autopilots can use the centimeter-level RTK position output of the INS in their flight control system. The autopilot also receives the benefit of INS navigation which is robust and protected against GNSS dropouts.

Thanks to the integrated GNSS and IMU in the xNAV, as well as OxTS’ tight-coupling technology, the navigation solution is smooth, resistant to GNSS jumps, and position drift is limited even when fewer than 4 satellites are in view. This can allow UASs to fly and navigate confidently in harsher GNSS environments such as urban canyons, near vegetation, or under bridges.

“MicroPilot is pleased to work with OxTS,” said Howard Loewen, President of MicroPilot. “This integration will create a better performing system for our customers.”


Shop MicroPilot’s line of autopilots at Unmanned Systems Source.