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UPS and CVS deliver prescription medicine via drone to US residential customers for the first time

By Darrell Etherington

UPS is rolling along with its drone delivery program, working with partner CVS Pharmacy to deliver prescription drugs to customer doorsteps via its newly deployed commercial drones. UPS delivered medications to two paying customers on November 1 using the M2 drone system that the logistics company developed in partnership with Matternet.

UPS received approval last month from the FAA to fly its fleet of commercial drones in service of customers, and now it plans to iterate its drone delivery program “in the coming months,” with the aim of ensuring that it can deploy UAVs in a commercial capacity at increasing scale. It also launched “UPS Flight Forward,” a dedicated division focused on autonomous drone delivery.

For these early deliveries, drones were loaded with prescriptions filled by pharmacists at a CVS location in Cary, NC. Once a UPS employee loaded the cargo onto the drones, they flew autonomously from the store location to nearby customer homes, dropping off the packages from a hover height of around 20 feet above these locations. One of the customers has mobility challenges that would make travel to a CVS store for prescription pickup difficult, UPS points out.

This isn’t the first time UPS has deployed drones in a healthcare industry setting: The company has been working with Mattternet and WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, doing commercial deliveries of medical samples in a B2B setting.

UK drone register takes off

By Natasha Lomas

A UK drone registration scheme has opened ahead of the deadline for owners to register their devices coming into force at the end of this month.

The UK government announced its intention to introduce a drone registration scheme two years ago.

The rules apply to drones or model aircraft weighting between 250g and 20kg.

Owners of drones wanting to fly the device themselves must also take and pass a theory test to gain a flyer ID by November 30. Anyone who wishes to fly a drone owned by someone else must also first obtain a flyer ID by passing the theory test.

UK ministers have come in for serious criticism for lagging on drone regulations in recent years after a spate of drone sightings at the country’s busiest airport grounded flights last December, disrupting thousands of travellers. In January flights were also briefly halted at Heathrow airport after another unidentified drone sighting.

This fall the police investigation into the Gatwick drone shutdown found that at least two drones had been involved. In September police also said they had been unable to identify any suspects — ruling out 96 people of interest.

Following the Gatwick disruption the government tightened existing laws around drone flights near airports — extending a no-fly zone from 1km to 5km. But a full drone bill, originally slated for introduction this year, has yet to take off.

As well as introducing a legal requirement for drone owners to register their craft via the Civil Aviation Authority’s website by November 30, the new stop-gap rules require organizations that use drones to register for an operator ID too, also at a cost of £9 per year.

All drones must also be labeled with the operator ID. This must be clearly visible on the main body of the craft, and easy to read when it’s on the ground, written in block capital letters taller than 3mm high.

The registered person who obtains the operator ID must be aged 18 or older and is accountable for managing drones to ensure only individuals with a flyer ID fly them.

Individuals must be aged 13 or older to obtain a flyer ID.

The online test for obtaining the flyer ID involves answering 20 multiple choice questions. The pass mark for the test is set at 16. There’s no limit on how many times the test can be taken.

The Civil Aviation Authority says everything needed to pass the test can be found in The Drone and Model Aircraft Code. There’s no charge for taking the test or obtaining the flyer ID.

DJI Mavic Mini Review

By Matt Burns

The $399 Mavic Mini lives in a sweet spot of core features and a low price. It packs everything critical to be a quality drone. It has a good camera, good range, and a good controller. It holds up well in the wind and is quick enough to be fun. And it’s so small that you’re more likely to throw it in your bag and take it on Instagram adventures.

The small size is the Mavic Mini’s main selling point. It weighs 249 grams, and that odd number isn’t an accident. Drones that weight 250 grams and above have to be registered to fly. And yet, even though the Mavic Mini is lightweight and foldable, it’s packed with core features: 30 minute flight time, 4 km HD video transmission, 3-axis gimbal holding a 2.7K camera, and a physical controller that works with Android and iOS devices. At $399, it’s a lot of drone for the money even though it’s missing features found in DJI’s other drones.

There are more expensive drones packed with a lot of features. I own most of those drones. They’re fun, but several years ago, feature creep started sneaking into DJI’s products. Now, with a convoluted product line, a spreadsheet is needed to deceiver DJI’s drones. Most come loaded with countless features owners will likely never use. The Mavic Mini is something different. It’s basic, and I dig it.

Here’s what’s missing: collision detection, ultra-long-range connection, 4k camera, gesture control, and advanced camera features like trackable follow, panoramic, timelapse, and optical zoom.

The Mavic Mini is quick enough to be fun, but it won’t win any races. It’s responsive and fast enough. Light and easy. Compared to a Mavic 2, it feels smaller and less powerful — because it is — and yet it never feels too small or underpowered. The Mavic Mini is well balanced, and owners should find it enjoyable to fly.

Despite its tiny size, the Mavic Mini holds up well in high wind. I took it up to 200m on a windy fall day in the Midwest. The wind was clearing leaves off the trees, and I was bundled up in hat and gloves. It was gusty. The Mavic Mini didn’t care. It took off like a drone much larger and stood tall against the wind. What’s more, the video didn’t suffer. The gimbal held the camera steady as it recorded the autumn landscape.

The drone uses DJI’s new app, and I’m using a beta version to test the drone. Called DJI Fly, it’s a streamlined version of DJI Go and packs several enhancements. Safe fly zones are better integrated into the app and have an additional level of detail over the older app. DJI also better built-in support for its social community app, SkyPixel. However, as this version is streamlined, it lacks a lot of information standard on the Go version, most notable, a mini-map in the bottom corner of the screen. I’m hoping DJI adds more features to this app after it launches.

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The camera is good for the price. The pictures here were taken from the drone and not altered or adjusted. They were taken on cloudy and sunny days. The range is surprisingly good as the drone can capture blue skies and dark highlights. Occasionally in direct sunlight, the camera colors become washed out.

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. That’s where the Mavic Mini comes in. The best drone is the one you have with you. For years, I lugged around a massive Pelican case containing Phantom 2 and later a Phantom 3. I thought I was the coolest. At a moment’s notice, I could go to my car’s trunk and retrieve a suitcase containing a flying camera. A few minutes later, after my phone synced to the drone, and the controller joined the drone’s network, I had 15 minutes of flight time. Then came the foldable Mavic, which fit alongside my camera gear like a large telephoto lens. Other drones came and went. I liked the GoPro Karma for a time.

The tiny Mavic Mini is a game-changer. It’s small enough that I’ll bring it everywhere. It’s small and light enough that it feels like a large point and shoot in my computer bag.

Want more features and a better camera but keep the portable size? Earlier this year DJI announced the $919 foldable Mavic Air that has a 4k camera and 5 mile video transmission.

The Mavic Mini gets everything right. It’s small, comes with a lovely case, and in a $499 bundle, two extra batteries with a clever charging pack. The camera is surprisingly good though admittedly less powerful than DJI’s more expensive drones. The Mavic Mini is the perfect drone for a first-timer or experienced drone enthusiast. DJI stuff enough features into the 249 gram body to make this a fantastic drone for anyone.

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DJI Mavic Mini announcement

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