Light Start – Welcome to 2016, here’s a bunch of drones

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Star Wars Sphero BB-8 – A New Droid (which can be controlled with a… Force Band?)





Just about the last thing we did at the Stuff offices before going off the grid last year was give away two Star Wars Sphero BB-8 app-controlled droids. And we’re hoping that we’re going to have a chance to give away the updated version, which is slated for launch some time this year. The droid doesn’t appear to have changed much but Sphero are planning on including a gesture-control ‘Force Band’ with the updated droid, so you can really feel like a Jedi without having to resort to fiddling with an app. The video above is of an early model in action and website The Verge stresses that the gestures used to control the BB-8 and even the name of the band might change before it hits the market. It’s that much of an early look. Look for an update in February this year, when we might see the BB-8 stealing hearts and wallet contents at the 2016 Toy Fair.

Source: The Verge

Intel enters the drone market by acquiring German outfit Ascending Technologies

Intel DroneIntel are going to be getting into the drone business, just like everyone else. Well, maybe not quite that conformist. The company has announced that they’re acquiring German company Ascending Technologies, an outfit that specialises in “…best-in-class drone auto-pilot software and algorithms”, including a sense-and-avoid tech that Intel has already used with their RealSense drones. It looks as though the deal will see Intel bringing those depth-sensing chops (and a few other functions) in-house, in order to make drones more advanced. Advanced Technologies will continue with their current customer base but will also working “…with Intel’s Perceptual Computing team to develop UAV technology that can help drones fly with more awareness of their environments.” Not a bad deal by the sound of things.

Source: Intel

Ford and DJI (and developers) are teaming up for a car-launched rescue drone

DJI CompSo you think you’re hot stuff with an SDK? Prove it, as they say, by taking up DJI’s 2016 Developer Challenge, a competition that will see several developers competing to create flying robots with a very specific purpose. In this case the purpose is to create an app which will allow a drone to be launched from a moving Ford F-150 pickup – the specific vehicle is because Ford’s in on this one as a partner. The test is that the drone will have to conduct a search-and-rescue mission once it’s taken off from the Ford, sending data back to users. Oh, and then land on the moving Ford again. DJI’s new SDK will be used, as well as their Matrice 100 drones, AND a Zenmuse X3 camera. That’s some serious hardware. If you’re thinking about putting your head on the block, then check out the competition first. Previous winners are from the University of Texas, Penn State University and South China University of Technology. If you’re still confident, hit up the source link below.

Source: DJI

Go to the DISCO with Parrot’s new fixed-wing drone prototype





If we were going to switch to a fixed-wing drone over the wide range of quad-copters now available on the market, Parrot’s DISCO prototype would have to be our first port of call. And not just because it’s about the only place to get a decent fixed-wing flyer without joining the US Army. The DISCO, previewed as a final prototype in the video above, looks to have a similar build process to their quad-copters (lightweight foam around an engine/camera assembly) but will feature a 45 minute flight time and stabilisation tech to go with the nose-mounted 14MP camera. RTB functions, a bunch of ways to control the drone and a 45 MINUTE FLIGHT TIME are all selling points as well. As is auto-landing, because we’d crash the hell out of this thing otherwise. The DISCO hasn’t been priced yet but you can expect it some time this year.

Source: Parrot (YouTube)

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