Chris Anderson’s Expanding Drone Empire

At the former Wired editor’s start-up, 3D Robotics, open-source robots take to the skies

10 min read
Chris Anderson’s Expanding Drone Empire
Fly, My Pretties: Chris Anderson (center) and his merry band of dronemasters test multicopters near San Francisco Bay.
Photo: Chris Mueller

Friday is Fly Day at 3D Robotics, a maker of small robotic aircraft. So here we are, on a windswept, grassy landfill with a spectacular view of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, looking up at a six-prop copter with a gleaming metal frame. It’s like a spiffy toy from the future. Buzzing like a swarm of bees, it lifts off smartly, hovers, then pinwheels.

“Jason’s making the hex twirl,” says CEO Chris Anderson, a trim man in jeans and an untucked oxford shirt. “That’s just for show—a human pilot couldn’t do that.” That’s because Jason, the flight tester, did nothing more than figuratively push a button. The hexarotor—technically, the 3DR Y-6—is on autopilot, which it demonstrates by zooming off on a preprogrammed route. The Y-6 sells for US $619. That’s a lot for a toy, but it’s chicken feed for a capital investment.

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Monitoring Parkinson’s Patients at Home Could Improve Disease Management

Device uses low-power radio waves to assess walking speeds

3 min read
Illustration showing a device with an antenna on a wall, radiating a signal. A figure walks through a door and is seen in several phases of gait as they wall towards the device.

By continuously monitoring a Parkinson’s patient’s gait speed, an in-home wireless system can assess the condition’s severity between visits to the doctor’s office.

N. Fuller/SayoStudio

A radar device the size of a Wi-Fi router could help continuously monitor Parkinson’s disease in patients from afar as they go about their lives at home. By using radio waves to track the gait of Parkinson’s patients, the device should help doctors assess the effectiveness of medications, see how the disease is progressing, and create better treatment plans.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive brain disorder that affects motor function, causing tremors, impaired balance, and the risk of falls and injuries. There is no cure for it and patients rely on medications to control symptoms.

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Taming the Climate Is Far Harder Than Getting People to the Moon

Decarbonization is a project with no clear beginning or end

3 min read
Chimneys and cooling towers from a coal fired power station releasing smoke and steam into the atmosphere.
Getty Images

In his 1949 book The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle, an English philosopher, introduced the term “category mistake.” He gave the example of a visitor to the University of Oxford who sees colleges and a splendid library and then asks, “But where is the university?” The category mistake is obvious: A university is an institution, not a collection of buildings.

Today, no category mistake is perhaps more consequential than the all-too-common view of the global energy transition. The error is to think of the transition as the discrete, well-bounded task of replacing carbon fuels by noncarbon alternatives. The apparent urgency of the transition leads to calls for confronting the challenge just as the United States dealt with two earlier ones: winning the nuclear-arms race against Nazi Germany and the space race against the Soviet Union. The Manhattan Project produced an atomic bomb in three years, and Project Apollo put two U.S. citizens on the moon in July 1969, eight years after President Kennedy had announced the goal.

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Take the Lead on Satellite Design Using Digital Engineering

Learn how to accelerate your satellite design process and reduce risk and costs with model-based engineering methods

1 min read
Keysight
Keysight

Win the race to design and deploy satellite technologies and systems. Learn how new digital engineering techniques can accelerate development and reduce your risk and costs. Download this free whitepaper now!

Our white paper covers:

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