Singapore drone frees your fingers to take photos

A drone being flown over an archaeological dig in the US. Even for the most dextrous, flying a drone while taking pictures can prove a challenge, but researchers in Singapore may have found a solution. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Singapore drone frees your fingers to take photos

SINGAPORE: As more people shoot pictures and videos from consumer drones, researchers in Singapore have found a way round the frustrating task of framing and taking photos while manually piloting the craft.
More than 2.8 million consumer drones are expected to be sold this year, up from 2 million last year, says research firm Gartner. Most carry some kind of camera.
“We want to enable more intuitive and natural interaction with the flying drone to take photos autonomously — even for the novice user who has not used drones before,” said Ziquan Lan, one of four researchers behind the project.
Their innovation, called XPose, works in several stages. The user tells the drone to take photographs from different angles of the subject, such as a statue. Next, the shot is composed by moving objects on photos from a sample gallery.
Then the drone finds the best position to take the commissioned photo. No manual piloting of the drone is needed.
The researchers from the National University of Singapore said their prototype, based on a Parrot Bebop quadcopter, relies mainly on a single monocular camera and works reliably even when there is no GPS signal.
Some remotely controlled drones take their cue from global positioning system satellites, or GPS, which requires the drone pilot to know where the image is in respect to the drone, adding another layer of complexity to the process.
But XPose does away with that. The researchers said it had a higher success rate in photo-taking tasks than the usual touchscreen joystick interface.
“Drones will be even smaller (than they are now) so we can carry them around as a smartphone camera, throw it in the air and take photos for us,” Lan said, as he outlined his vision of the future.
But the problem is a thorny one, he said, adding that he and fellow researchers Mohit Shridhar, David Hsu and Shengdong Zhao went through dozens of methods and environments to evolve a working prototype.
Several companies are working to simplify how users take airborne pictures and videos.
A US-based startup, Skydio, which aims for “flying cameras without the complexity,” is working on a drone that follows its operator using onboard cameras to capture a 360-degree view of its environs.
Another firm, Squadrone System, offers an “autonomous flying camera” called HexoPlus for $1,000. A user can program it via a smartphone app with simple instructions, such as “follow” or “hover close.”
For $700, the Mota Group offers the Lily Next-Gen camera drone that flies itself and hovers above the user, taking photos and video.


50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

Boom Supersonic co-founder, Blake Scholl, poses for a photograph in front of an artists impression of his company's proposed design for an supersonic aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, at the Farnborough Airshow, south west of London, on July 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

  • Boom Supersonic’s aircraft is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year
  • The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people

WEYBRIDGE, United Kingdom: Luxury air travel faster than the speed of sound: A US start-up is aiming to revive commercial supersonic flight 50 years after the ill-fated Concorde first took to the skies.
Blake Scholl, the former Amazon staffer who co-founded Boom Supersonic, delivered the pledge this week in front of a fully-restored Concorde jet at the Brooklands aviation and motor museum in Weybridge, southwest of London.
Boom Supersonic’s backers include Richard Branson and Japan Airlines and other players are eyeing the same segment.
The company aims to manufacture a prototype jet next year but its plans have been met with skepticism in some quarters.
“The story of Concorde is the story of a journey started but not completed — and we want to pick up on it,” Scholl said.
The event coincided with the nearby Farnborough Airshow.
“Today... the world is more linked than it’s ever been before and the need for improved human connection has never been greater,” Scholl said.
“At Boom, we are inspired at what was accomplished half a century ago,” he added, speaking in front of a former British Airways Concorde that flew for the first time in 1969.

Boom Supersonic’s aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year.
“If we can’t continue where you left off, and build on that, then the shame is on us,” Scholl said, addressing himself to an audience that included retired Concorde staff.
“Our vision is to build a faster airplane that is accessible to more and more people, to anybody who flies.”
Boom Supersonic is making its debut at Farnborough and hopes to produce its new-generation jets in the mid-2020s or later, with the aim of slashing journey times by half.
The proposed aircraft has a maximum flying range of 8,334 kilometers (5,167 miles) at a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 kilometers per hour.
If it takes off, it would be the first supersonic passenger aircraft since Concorde took its final flight in 2003.
The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people.
Some analysts remain skeptical over the push back into supersonic.
“Supersonic is not what passengers or airlines want right now,” said Strategic Aero analyst Saj Ahmed, stressing that many travelers wanted cheap low-cost carriers instead.
Ahmed said supersonic jets were “very unattractive” because of high start-up development costs, considerations about noise pollution and high prices as well as limited capacity.

Independent air transport consultant John Strickland also noted supersonic travel was unproven commercially.
“Business traffic, on the face of it, is the most lucrative for airlines,” Strickland told AFP.
“But if there is an economic downturn or something happens where the market for business class traffic drains away, then you have nothing else left to do with that aircraft.
“I think it’s going to be some time before we see whether it can establish a large viable market... in the way that Concorde never managed to do.”
These concerns have not stopped interest from other players.
US aerospace giant Boeing had last month unveiled its “hypersonic” airliner concept, which it hopes will fly at Mach 5 — or five times the speed of sound — when it arrives on the scene in 20 to 30 years.
And in April, NASA inked a deal for US giant Lockheed Martin to develop a supersonic “X-plane.”