KYIV, 23 October 2014 – The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) today successfully completed the maiden flight of its unarmed/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) before members of the media near Mariupol in eastern Ukraine. The roll-out of the UAV operations in eastern Ukraine will continue Friday with, weather permitting, routine operational flights.
The UAVs, the Schiebel CAMCOPTER® S-100, are being provided, flown and maintained by an Austrian company Schiebel under contract to the OSCE and operated under the authority and direction of the SMM, with the Mission’s monitors in close attendance. The data collected is the property of the OSCE and for the Organization’s use only.
The Mission’s use of its UAVs aims at supporting the fulfilment of its mandate through complementary aerial information-gathering focused on monitoring the general security situation in Ukraine.
The UAVs will also be used for other tasks that are in line with the SMM’s mandate; such as monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Minsk Protocol of 5 September and the Minsk Memorandum of 19 September 2014.
“The UAVs will enhance existing monitoring capabilities in fulfilment of our mandate in Ukraine,” said Chief Monitor Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan. “They will compliment what our monitors observe on the ground, which will still be our primary source of information gathering.”
Initially, and until further notice, the SMM’s UAV will operate over the area south of Donetsk down to the Sea of Azov, eastwards as far as the Ukrainian-Russian state border and westwards towards the line of contact.
The CAMCOPTER® S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) successfully demonstrated its capability across several different maritime scenarios to Dutch Authorities in Den Helder, The Netherlands, on 29 April 2014.
Consolidating its unmatched maritime position, the S-100 demonstrated its ability to support maritime commanders and decision makers in the North Sea, west of Den Helder. The North Sea is already one of the busiest maritime areas in the world and the Coast Guard expects this to increase over the coming years.
The demonstrations were executed from a Dutch Navy vessel, using the L3 Wescam MX-10 electro-optic sensor as a payload. The demonstration programme was based around a sequence of scenarios commencing with the CAMCOPTER® S-100 introduction to the audience.
In one of those scenarios a fire onboard a ship loaded with dangerous substances resulted in the crew abandoning the vessel, two crew members are missing and no further information is available. Before the rescue mission begins it is deemed essential by the decision makers that they have “eyes” on the target to assess risks and determine the possible location of the missing crew members. The S-100 is deployed to provide this information as well as giving other useful information to help combat the fire. The CAMCOPTER® demonstrates how it can gather this time critical information quickly and efficiently.
The fight against drug smuggling formed the theme of another scenario. The S-100 is deployed to discretely follow a suspect vessel. Suddenly a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, (RHIB) appears, moving alongside the vessel. The unmanned helicopter observes and records the transfer of drugs and supplies time critical information to the allied ships to intercept and detain the RHIB.
During all scenarios the CAMCOPTER® S-100 ably demonstrated its flexibility, versatility and persistence, all of which are the key to successful operation in maritime environment.
Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group of companies commented:”This series of trials once again showed how the S-100 can provide a cost effective capability to Maritime Commanders and decision makers whether ashore or afloat.”
Airbus Defence and Space submitted a formal application for civil certification of its unmanned aerial vehicle, Atlante, to the European Aviation Safety Agency, the body responsible for certifying all aircraft in Europe.
The Atlante is a single-engine, propeller-powered UAV weighing over 1,200 pounds and has a wingspan of over 25 feet. It can take on a variety of commercial roles, including surveillance of oil pipelines, power lines, railways, natural disasters, forest fires or sporting events.
Airbus and EASA will now work together to develop a certification process to set the standards for UAV certification in Europe.
“UAVs represent a rapidly growing activity in commercial aviation that will have a very significant economic impact in the near future,” says Miguel Ángel Morell, head of engineering for military aircraft at Airbus. “The launch of the Atlante application will help EASA to secure a world-leading position in the establishment of the appropriate regulatory framework under which such systems will be designed, produced and maintained.”
Hear the word “drone” today and you’ll probably picture some kind of flying weapon, snooping or raining Hellfire missiles from above. But in reality, the first drones you’re likely to see actually in use are more likely to be closer to crop dusters, buzzing over farms. Rather than taking pictures and videos of people, they’ll be surveying fields, using their high-resolution sensors to improve crop yield and decrease agricultural water and chemical use.
Why farms? Because agriculture is a big data problem without the big data . About half of the “inputs” in farming (from fluids to pesticides, fungicides and herbicides) are typically wasted because they’re applied in greater amount than needed or in the wrong place, such as the ground between plants rather than the plants themselves. That’s considered unavoidable, due to the nature of spray application or the need to avoid under-use of water and chemicals, which can be catastrophic, from disease outbreak to total crop loss.
Soon farmers will know what’s going on with every plant, spotting problems before they spread, and applying chemicals with honeybee precision. They’ll use pesticides and fungicides only when needed and in the smallest amounts necessary, lowering the chemical load in both food and environment and saving money. On a small farm, you can get that level of precision with hand-tending. But on a big farm, the answer is more likely to be robotics, including flying robots — drones.
For the past year, my team at 3D Robotics has been flying our drones on farms, gathering data and talking to farmers about what they want and how they work. These are some of the lessons we’ve learned:
Every crop is different! It goes without saying, but grapes are not tomatoes, and tomatoes are not corn. There are hundreds of different kinds of farms, ranging from trees to roots (and that’s not even including livestock and ranching). Each crop needs to be measured differently to generate actionable data. There is no universal crop survey solution, and it will probably be specialists in each particular crop type who ultimately deliver solutions to farmers.
Multicopters, not planes. We started with fixed-wing UAVs, but quickly realized that most farms don’t have landing strips. Even short takeoff-and-landing planes get battered fast in regular use without dedicated landing areas, which few farms have. Meanwhile, multicopters, which can take off and land anywhere, are gaining endurance and can now fly for as much as 40 minutes and cover miles. Planes are only suited for the largest farms, and even then missions need to be planned very carefully to find places they can reliably land.
Phones/tablets, not laptops. Farmers don’t want to drag laptops into the fields. Any drone that is expected to be used by regular consumers should be entirely operated by a standard Apple or Android smartphone or tablet.
One-click auto missions, not “flying”. Likewise, farmers don’t want to have to fly things . Agricultural UAVs should be fully-autonomous, from takeoff to landing. The experience should be as simple as pressing a “Start” button on a phone and the drone flies the entire mission on its own.
Fly the camera, not the aircraft: What the farmer is interested in is a picture — not the acquisition of the picture. Let sophisticated planning tools figure out precisely how to gather the right images, let autonomy take care of the nitty gritty details of flight dynamics, and let humans do what humans do best — specify high-level desires.
Video can be worth more than stills. Don’t discount how good farmers are at spotting things with their own eyes. Sometimes a first-person-view live video feed will allow them to spot issues and direct the vehicle to more closely inspect the problem area. (Needless to say, this is only really practical with multicopters). Indeed, farmers may not even know what they’re looking for initially. Sometimes general situational awareness is the task, rather than delivering a specific data product (such as a mosaic).
NDVI is surprisingly easy to do. The gold standard of crop surveying is a “Normalized Differential Vegetation Index”, which shows the difference between regular red light reflected from plants and near-infrared light. Healthy chlorophyll absorbs red and reflects near-IR, while damaged chlorophyll reflect both. It doesn’t take expensive cameras to gather this data. A regular camera slightly modified with a blue bit of plastic becomes a near-IR camera. Take a cheap consumer 3D camera with two lenses, modify one for near-IR, and you’ve got a NDVI camera for less than $200.
Aim for crop consultants, not farmers. Most crop data services are provided by local consultants, such as agronomists, not the farmers themselves. At the moment, FAA regulations ban most commercial use of UAVs, defined as anything where money changes hands, so most are used by farmers themselves for their own purposes on their own land. But Congress has mandated that the FAA introduce regulations to allow wider commercial use by 2015 (although it will probably be later than that before this happens). At that point, expect most users to be those local service providers, not the farmers themselves.
Time is money. Drones can get answers fast and cheaply, taking advantage of their “anywhere, anytime access to the sky” abilities. That means “timely data on time”, such as daily surveys to find exactly the right time to harvest. Likewise, changes over time can be equally illuminating. The aim of crop surveying is to show the farmers something they can’t see with their own eyes, and the time dimension is a great example of that. By doing regular crop surveys, say every day or week, and using software to highlight differences over time, it’s possible to zero in on growing differences between areas of a field, which may be directly correlated to productivity.
Data can be marketing. Some seed companies already offer to do aerial crop surveys for free as part of a sales process, much as they once “walked the field” as part of a free crop analysis process. Similarly, crop survey data can do more than simply guide a farmer into making different crop management decisions. It can also allow the farmer to market their harvest more effectively, pitching such high-tech precision agriculture as a differentiating quality in a commodity field. If data-driven crop management lead farmers to use less chemicals and water, perhaps someday “drone-guided agricultural” will be something consumers could be willing to pay more for. Done right, big data agriculture means “greener” crops and food. If consumers will pay a premium for organic, why not for this?
Emergency Response UAV showing the possible use for the delivery of first aid prior to the arrival of the emergency personnel. With the congestion on the road, this may not seem to far from being a good life saving idea. This was the original idea behind Google’s Project Wing but was not pursued due to the potential litigation issues that might arise.