The U.S. government uses them to bomb alleged terrorists in far-away places. Tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are all toying with the idea of using them, and now they’re a photographer’s secret weapon. Drones are a big part of our lives, whether we see them or not. Drone Beat collects the best and most important stories every week.
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Drone Beat’s coverage areas this week
Last update: Sept. 12, 10;05 a.m. ET
Search and rescue company gets permission to use drones to find missing woman
The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Wednesday that it was giving the Texas-based search and rescue organization EquuSearch temporary permission to use its drones to locate a missing woman.
EquuSearch will use three small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to find the 23-year-old woman who disappeared on Aug. 30 in Plano, Texas, according to local news reports. The FAA granted EquuSearch a so-called Certificate of Authorization to use the drones from Sept. 11 until Sept. 15.
This episode seems to indicate that the FAA might be warming up to the use of drones to help locate missing people. As we’ve noted many times, drones have a big potential in these situations, but these kind of efforts have sometimes been stifled.
Earlier this year, the FAA and EquuSearch went through a legal battle after the agency sent a series of cease-and-desist letters to the company. In the end, the judge ruled that it was legal for EquuSearch to use drones. At the time, EquuSearch announced it was going to resume flights right away. Now, legal battle aside, the FAA itself is — temporarily — greenlighting the use of drones by EquuSearch.
Canadian police use drone to find missing family
Speaking of search and rescue operations, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used a drone to help rescue a family that got lost in a forest near the Topsai Lake in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The police deployed the drone after they weren’t able to locate the family using sirens, according to Global News.
Amazon unveils online drone store
Amazon has very ambitious aspirations when it comes to drones. For now, though, while it clears all the regulatory hurdles to truly launch its delivery drones, the company unveiled an online store for flying robots — but no Amazon Prime Air delivery for now.
The Drone Store offers recreational and cheap unmanned aerial vehicles such as those made by Parrot, as well as some more expensive ones catered to photographers such as the DJI Phantom.
Interestingly, a banner in the middle of the front page of the store warns potential drone hobbyists: “Fly responsibly.” The banner leads to a page with links to the FAA website as well as links to flight safety guides by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International(AUVSI), and the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
How NASA plans to make American skies safe for drones
The idea is to create “highways in the sky,” Parimal Kopardekar, the NASA scientist helming the project, told Motherboard, with drones going in the same direction using a some sort of a “corridor.” In some ways, it sounds a lot like Back to the Future 2.
Kopardear said he hopes to have a prototype for this drone air traffic management system ready in five years, And as Motherboard‘s Jason Koebler notes, while it sounds like a long time, “it seems pretty short when you consider the different factors the system is going to take into account.”
Drone research center releases comprehensive ‘primer’
If you’ve never heard of drones, or you don’t understand some of the issues surrounding this new technology, we’ve got good news. The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College has released a comprehensive and exhaustive report precisely for you.
The Drone Primer is “a short, one-stop online and print publication for the layperson” who’s looking to understand the key issues concerning drones, according to Arthur Holland Michel, the founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone, which opened in 2012, before drones were all over the headlines and under much public scrutiny as they are now.
You can read the Drone Primer here.
New York City gets its first-ever drone film festival
Forget about Cannes, drones are getting their own film festival, too, now. Randy Scott Slavin, a New York City-based filmmaker, will host the first-ever flying robot film festival in 2015.
Slavin’s idea is to showcase how drones can make great movies.
“This festival is about showing how kick-ass, interesting, and beautiful drone cinematography can be,” Slavin, who shot the video embedded below, told Mashable. “The drone is the most amazing cinematic innovation since the steadycam and deserves its due attention.”
If you have a beautiful and compelling video shot entirely with a drone, and limited to five minutes, the festival is still seeking submissions until Nov. 30. It will be held in Manhattan on Feb. 21, 2015.