Parrot Adds GPS and Partial Autonomy to AR Drone, Shows Off SenseFly UAV

The AR Drone gets even better, and Parrot introduces us to the eBee UAV camera platform

2 min read
Parrot Adds GPS and Partial Autonomy to AR Drone, Shows Off SenseFly UAV

We're huge fans of the AR Drone, not just because it's dirt cheap and a huge amount of fun, and also not just because it's actually being used for serious research, but because we love how Parrot just keeps on making it better year after year. At CES last week, they showed us a bunch of upgrades along the path to autonomy, along with their newest toy: a camera equipped eBee UAV from SenseFly.

Let's start with the AR Drone. Parrot has been working on two hardware add-ons, including a 1,500 mAh battery pack that'll give you 50% more flying time, and (much more excitingly) a GPS receiver:

Sadly, the GPS receiver isn't set up to allow full autonomy (yet). At launch, it'll simply record a track of your AR Drone's flight, as well as helping to keep the drone from drifting, but obviously, there's a lot that Parrot (or other clever blokes) should be able to do with this.

If you're looking for more immediate autonomy, Parrot is also releasing some software called Director's Mode,which gives a little taste:

All those buttons down at the bottom let you direct the drone in different ways, like translating it left and right or forward and backward, or rotating around a point. The idea is that it'll make filming things with the drone's camera a lot smoother (hence "Director's Mode"), but Parrot hinted that more advanced scriptability may be forthcoming.

The final new thing that we saw was the eBee, part of Parrot's SenseFly acquisition from earlier this year. The eBee is fully autonomous, and uses an onboard 16 megapixel Canon PowerShot to autonomously survey sites and stitch together big georeferenced and orthorectified 3D panoramas.

It's easy to carry around, easy to launch, lands autonomously, does all of the image processing by itself, and can be yours in 2-3 months for a really-not-that-much-if-you-think-about-it $12,000.

[ Parrot AR Drone ]

[ SenseFly eBee ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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