The Case for Drones as Hunting Aids

The Case for Drones as Hunting Aids

I’m a hunter.  I’ve used my compact 45lb compound bow to harvest (meaning kill and entirely eat) squirrels and rabbits in Australia and elsewhere.  I don’t currently own a rifle but have a Canadian firearms license and plan to purchase a .22 because it’s more economical than a bow, unless you can make your own arrows cheaply en masse or you’re really, really good and don’t lose them (I am not, and do).  One advantage of a bow vs. a gun is that you can take it across international borders without trouble.  I declared mine when entering Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada and the USA and got nothing more than a shrug. Recently drones have appeared on the radar of conservation officers, hunters’ groups and wildlife activists as something which can be used to assist in the tracking of game, especially small drones with thermal cameras.  The drone can be used to locate the animal and information is visually or otherwise relayed to the hunter who can approach it and try to get in position for a kill.  Drones could also be weaponized themselves, but that’s not something I’m going to discuss here because it has legitimate concerns relating to public safety and indiscriminate or non-targeted killing of animals.  And who is responsible if something goes wrong, the manufacturer, the pilot or the owner?  Let’s stick to discussing scouting and spotting for now. Depending on who you talk to, they have different reasons, but all three interest groups listed above have a general distaste for the use of drones in hunting and all have contributed to laws in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho,...
Lessons learned from the first 3 years of business

Lessons learned from the first 3 years of business

Running a business is challenging and rewarding at the same time.  You can never know how to or whether you can succeed unless you try.  And success and failure are very personal and subjective concepts.  Someone who grew up poor may be motivated by the drive to be upwardly class-mobile.  Another person may want to focus only on doing something meaningful to themselves and society and money may be unimportant as anything other than a means to continue working at what you love.  Working at a firm may teach you job-related skills and allow you to save up funds for your business launch, but there is no better education than throwing yourself in head first and doing your best no matter the outcome.  Here are 10 key things I’ve learned from the last 3 years of running my own company: — Allowing business partners, advisors, employees, investors and customers to distract you from your vision will result in disappointment and feelings of failure. Know when not to listen even if they call you fools. Customers have many presuppositions that prevent you from being able to “connect the dots” toward your goal (something Steve Jobs talked about a lot).  They are not the visionary.  If you try to build exactly what they ask for, you will end up with a product that is very much like your competitors because all they are typically capable of imagining is what they have already seen.  This effect may creep up on you without you being aware of it and suddenly you cannot recognize your own product.  You will then become despondent and blame...

Drones are the new taxi industry

Uber is a self-serving company which cares only about it’s own profits to the point of classifying vast numbers of obvious employees as “contractors” to avoid taxes and, like in the movie “Nightcrawlers”, arguing that the freedom to work whenever you want is a substitute for at least some regulation on minimum and fair wages.  But banning them in favor of an archaic government-enforced taxi cartel is not a solution.  Apparently not having learned its lesson after banning Uber in most cities, having a non-voluntary maple syrup producers union cartel and holding back the legalization of marijuana which keeps padding the profits of “licensed” producers and shuts out competition for production of what is literally a weed that grows almost anywhere, Canada (the government part) is at it again.  This time, the target is drones. Although not one incident involving a drone has caused a loss of life to date (contrast that with 2014’s 1834 road fatalities and 9647 “serious injuries”, which we accept as a reality of life without much concern), Transport Canada (who regulates road vehicle safety, marine safety and drone safety) has kept a tight control on anyone who may wish to use drones.  Rules include excessive 9 km radius restrictions near airstrips and airports, no flying near or within built up areas (“anything bigger than a farmstead”) and no flying at night. The drone rules aren’t built upon proven evidence of harm (unlike flying human-carrying aircraft at low altitude).  There isn’t a scientific basis for them.  It’s Transport Canada’s love for rules, licenses and permits and an “ordered” industry, just like with many other government...
To Patent or Not to Patent: A guide for tech entrepreneurs

To Patent or Not to Patent: A guide for tech entrepreneurs

This is one of the most difficult decisions tech entrepreneurs have to make. Most tech entrepreneurs are very possessive of our ideas.  We tend to overvalue the importance of our idea and undervalue the time and resources involved in bringing an idea to market successfully.  Similarly, manufacturers, executives and end users may undervalue the time and resources taken to conduct research and development.  So we get silo-like situations where customers complain about companies charging high prices for important technologies, executives complain about how much R&D costs them, and how many unexpected delays there are in it, and engineers and developers demand more compensation and recognition of their work.  The current system of patents is a very imperfect answer to the question: “how do we fairly compensate the people who conduct the R&D?” since they aren’t selling a concrete, tangible good. But how does this help you choose whether a patent is right for your tech idea or company? I spent months agonizing over the decision on whether to patent a foldable propeller shroud system for a multi-rotor UAV.  In the end I decided to go ahead with it, although I’m still not sure it was the correct decision.  The patent cost me about $10,000 in drafting and filing fees (while you can file a Provisional application yourself, I don’t advise filing the final patent without a lawyer’s help.  Mine did a really good job on writing a defensible patent.) What’s more, it has cost me a lot of my time writing the draft to send to my lawyer, checking and evaluating the lawyer’s work, and responding to numerous revision...

Eight Indoor and Outdoor Uses for Drones

(That you may not have thought of) By Riderless Technologies Everyone knows UAVs are good at filming, mapping, survey, inspection, search and rescue and first responder work.  But here are some other things UAVs can do now, or will be able to do in the very near future.  Which ideas do you like?  We want to make them.  Email us at stefan@riderless.ca or tweet to @riderlessdrone with your comments and suggestions! Light your way at night Even a small UAV can carry a bright headlamp.  Not only can you now see clearly where the drone is looking, but you can employ even the most basic CMOS cameras on your UAV at night without relying on more expensive thermal imagery. Fly without power Every drone has a “flight time”.  But what if yours didn’t need to be recharged?  You can launch an unpowered drone by catapult and have it glide back to you along a pre-programmed flight path.  This can be used to get a live or recorded aerial view for up to 30 seconds, allowing you to see what’s over the next hill. The camera and basic electronics can be powered by AAAs for 20+ hours before needing to be replaced. Be your orbiting situational awareness companion Many multi-rotors now have the technology to follow you as you walk, run or travel in a vehicle, using visual object tracking and GPS.  But not too many of these personal drones are fixed-wing aircraft that can perform an ongoing orbit around you while staying in the air 40 minutes or more.  It can constantly keep watch for people, animals and vehicles...
Now serving: Virtual Reality Drone Flights for Hospice Patients

Now serving: Virtual Reality Drone Flights for Hospice Patients

Riderless is partnering with Aerial Anthropology, a drone film production company based in Cleveland, OH who has started a revolutionary program to provide real-time flying virtual reality opportunities for patients in palliative care.  Patients are able to communicate directly with the pilot in real-time and ask the pilot to fly wherever they want to go. We will be providing piloting services for the Patient Outreach Program based out of the remote, beautiful and rugged Yukon, which patients will be able to experience firsthand.  For many people, traveling to the North is something they’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or the opportunity.  Now it’s possible for people who can no longer travel due to serious illness. We will be using the Sentry unmanned aerial vehicle coupled with VLC media player to stream live HD video directly from the air to a large flat-screen TV in the patient’s bedroom with nearly zero delay.  The extreme portability and ruggedness of the Sentry serve us well when hiking through the thick, wiry brush and sub-alpine forest to access high alpine glaciers and meadows for the true Yukon experience. Being designed for operation in temperatures as low as -30 C, the Sentry can also keep flying after other drones succumb to the frigid and long Yukon winters. Riderless is excited to engage in this groundbreaking program in partnership with Aerial Anthropology, merging UAVs, virtual reality and patient care into an affordable and amazing experience. For more information on the Patient Outreach Program, contact Aerial Anthropology. Add to...
Drones in the Backcountry pt. 2

Drones in the Backcountry pt. 2

I’m sitting here thinking about what to write.  I started a summary of drone rules in the U.S. and Canada – an analysis of how the new drone rules affect commercial UAV users – and stopped after realizing how dry and boring it was.  It could be summed up like this: The USA now requires pilot permits and Canada probably will too (at least for flights within 9 km of a built up area). This is likely to nudge end user organizations toward outsourcing operations to companies who are professional UAV pilots rather than buying their own UAVs. This will have a negative effect on search and rescue and emergency (police, fire, wildlife, environmental) response times, as they have to call in an specialist who may be away, or at a wedding after having a few drinks & unable to fly, rather than grab a UAV that anyone can pilot out of their backpack or vehicle.  Transport Canada is considering establishing a lower weight category free of the built-up area requirement and we hope they do establish it for this reason. The regulators still don’t trust obstacle avoidance tech. enough to allow BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) operations, which will be big.  And why should they in light of Tesla’s vision-based system failing to pick up a white truck You can fly at night, meaning you can continue an aerial search operation after helicopters are grounded, but you need to get a special Certificate of Waiver or SFOC for all night operations and have a suitably lit UAV You still can’t fly in U.S. National Forest or National...
Drones in the Backcountry

Drones in the Backcountry

While UAVs or drones have become ubiquitous in recent years, one area where they are not yet widely used is as backcountry sports gear.  Several posts on backcountry forums indicate that people are interested in using UAVs to scout approaches for climbs, investigate ahead down a white-water rapid, and scout out ski descent routes, and of course to film their exploits.  However, many purist climbers and other sports enthusiasts are resistant to the idea.  When we did a survey of climbers to see if there was interest in drones to scout approaches, we got flamed badly.  One awesome post suggested “why don’t you just have the drone do the hike for you”.  While many drones are sold specifically for action sports and terrain park filming, the relatively niche backcountry sports market has not yet seen major players in the UAV industry move in. Several companies, including Ascent Aerosystems based out of Arizona, USA with their Sprite UAV, have started entering this market with some success.  Clearly with backcountry recreationalists being very enthusiastic about their gear, and willing to spend in order to get the best, there is a great potential market for the “MEC/REI Drone”.  This UAV must provide at minimum, reasonable filming features when compared to the state of the art in consumer filming (DJI Phantom 4), along with follow-me and hands-free modes to allow automated self-filming (for those who choose to venture out without companions, or just to make things easier on your friendships).  Removable or detachable spare battery packs are critical for any serious backcountry application.  Most importantly, the UAV must pack all these features into...
Drones for Search and Rescue in the Yukon

Drones for Search and Rescue in the Yukon

Recently I started working as an rural ambulance volunteer for the Yukon EMS, generally stationed in Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada.  Here the terrain is varied and vast and we have some calls where driving two hours at freeway speeds is necessary to arrive at the scene. About half of the calls we get relate to incidents in town – intoxicated people falling over, boating accidents, etc.  The other half typically relates to motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) on the highway which serves as the main conduit from continental North America to Alaska and carries plenty tourists and travelers every summer. Most people drive safely, but the excitement of “going to Alaska” and the lengthy hours of daylight (weird to most people) can contribute to fatigue and accidents on the highway.  When this happens it is often on remote stretches far from towns and the cars (or buses, or trucks) end up in the ditch beside the highway along with their patients.  Sometimes a search is required to find all the patients. A smaller organization such as Yukon EMS has its advantages to work for, such as knowing your managers and directors by first name, and the knowledge that in the event of a true emergency out in the wilderness, nobody sitting at a desk will judge the rescuers on scene for using every tool at their disposal in the best interest of patient safety.  I carry my Sentry UAV in my personal response pack knowing that if I was faced with a multiple-casualty incident requiring a search in the woods, and the UAV was the best option, I’d use it. ...
Three Places to Use a UAV

Three Places to Use a UAV

If you’re new to the UAV world and/or just getting started flying you might be wondering where to launch your UAV.  There are certain areas that are completely off limits such as U.S. Military Bases and U.S. National Parks if you are in the States.  You also can not fly your UAV within a five mile radius of airports.  Luckily that leaves plenty of other places to enjoy all that your UAV can offer.  Here’s some ideas on places where you can get started. Open Field If you are still in the stage of flying your UAV for the first couple of times, it is important to practice in an open, clear area where you can really learn how to control your device.  If you are also testing a certain part of your UAV this is a great place to try it out before taking it around trees or any bodies of water at all. This is a safer alternative than flying your UAV in a dangerous or wooded area when you are still learning how to navigate.  If you crash your device in an open field you will most likely be able to tell exactly what happened when your UAV goes down.  You also won’t have to spend time looking for it like you would have to in a wooded area. Ocean Shore Once you have learned how to maneuver your UAV and feel comfortable taking your flying to the next level you can bring it out over the shore.  Like an open field, you will hopefully have some space to get away from the crowds depending on...