An autonomous drone that collects environmental DNA, a robotic wing that measures flapping performance, a Wyoming bill to outlaw drone flights over prisons, flying drugs into the U.S. with drones, and an ex-drone manager sues Amazon.

UAV News

Special drone collects environmental DNA from trees

If you want to find out what creatures live in an area, you can observe them or you can collect the “environmental DNA” they leave. Examples of external DNA include dead skin or feathers, waste, and fluids. These can be found in the soil, in water, or on rocks and tree branches. Collecting environmental DNA can be difficult and expensive. It can be unsafe if you have to climb up into the forest canopy to get the DNA samples

Now a special drone is being developed that can autonomously collect samples on tree branches. Collaborating are ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, and environmental DNA (eDNA) specialist Spygen. (A French biotechnology company created in 2011 and specializing in molecular ecology.) The drone lands on a branch and adhesive strips collect the samples. DNA is extracted in the lab.

Video: Special drone collects environmental DNA from trees

Efficiency of flapping drones to be increased with wing-folding research

A recent study led by Lund University in Sweden found that birds fly more efficiently by folding their wings during the upstroke. This might have implications for flapping drones and could increase their propulsive and aerodynamic efficiency. In order to study the different ways that wings could flap, the research team constructed a robotic wing that can flap the way birds do but can also flap in ways birds don’t. Wind tunnel measurements record the performance of the wing. Biology researcher Christoffer Johansson says “Flapping drones could be used for deliveries, but they would need to be efficient enough and able to lift the extra weight this entails. How the wings move is of great importance for performance, so this is where our research could come in handy,”

Bill Outlawing Flying Drones Over Prisons Soars Through Wyoming Senate

The Wyoming Department of Corrections says just two incidents have occurred in Wyoming that involve drones and prisons. (Those were attempts to deliver tobacco.) But other prisons have seen drone incidents. The Wyoming Corrections Director fears that drones could be used to spy on prisons and identify guards, inmates, and specific facility details. After the Senate vote, the legislation goes to the state House.

It Looked Like A Nice Family Home. Cops Suspect It Was A Secret Drone Airport For MDMA Dropoffs

Nobody seemed to live there at the $650,000 property in upstate New York. The grounds were unkempt and expensive-looking cars came and went. Law enforcement decided to investigate and border patrol came up with a surveillance tool that could “recognize drone signatures, map their flight path, and identify starting and stopping points via GPS.” At night, a UAV flew in. Police arrived and the pilot and two others were taken into custody. The drone held a package with $110,000 (street value) of MDMA, 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine, commonly called Ecstacy. At this time, only the alleged drone pilot has been charged.

Ex-Amazon drone manager says he was fired for raising safety concerns

The former manager is suing Amazon in King County Superior Court in Seattle, claiming racial discrimination in promotions and retaliation for raising safety concerns. He notes the lack of safety protocols in drone testing, the large number of crashes, and restrictions on employee access to flight information, videos, and pictures.
The man is seeking lost earnings, and compensation for legal fees and emotional distress. Amazon said in a statement “these allegations are false and we look forward to proving that in court.” See also, Amazon Drone Crashes Hit Jeff Bezos’ Delivery Dreams.