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Drone News Roundup: Drone Footage of the Masters, Autonomous Drones Count Penguins in Record Time, and More!

BY Zacc Dukowitz
20 November 2020

This week we’re covering the drone footage that came out of the recent 2020 Masters golf tournament and blew everyone away—given the overwhelmingly positive reaction, it seems like drone footage of the Masters will be a regular thing going forward.

We’re also covering a story about researchers using a new method called POPCORN to fly drones autonomously in order to significantly speed up the process for counting penguins in the Antarctic, a rescue story of a drone and a hovercraft saving a man in England who had been washed out to sea, Ehang’s recent demo of its taxi drone in Seoul, and a letter from two former congressmen criticizing the DOJ’s ban on Chinese drones.

Now on to the links!

Drone Footage Featured at Masters Golf Tournament for First Time Ever

People are oohing and aahing at the beautiful drone shots that came out of the 2020 Masters golf tournament this week, which took place at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA. This is the first time a drone has been allowed to shoot at the Masters, and it was allowed to do so in part to provide greater access to those who couldn’t attend in person because of COVID-19 restrictions. Given the warm reception, it looks like the drone will definitely be invited back to future tournaments.


Autonomous Drones Count Antarctic Penguins in Record Time

Speedy drones count Antarctic penguin colonies in record time

It usually takes scientists two full days of work to count the Adélie penguins that nest on Antarctica’s Cape Crozier. There are some 300,000 nesting pairs of these penguins, and counting them has traditionally required the use of both drones and helicopters. But a new flight path algorithm called POPCORN has allowed scientists to cut the time needed for the count down to just three hours by programming multiple drones to fly autonomously and pass over the same area. The success of this new approach has far-reaching implications, since it could be used for counts in a variety of other research scenarios.


Drone and Hovercraft Save Man Half-Mile out to Sea

Photo credit: Morecambe Police

A man was recently spotted struggling to stay afloat almost a half-mile out to sea off the coast of the town of Morecambe, England. The Morecambe Police and the Morecambe RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution), which is similar to the U.S. Coast Guard, teamed up to save the man. Using a drone, Morecambe Police quickly located the man at sea (see image above), and then the RNLI used a hovercraft to bring him safely back to shore.


Ehang Passenger Drone Makes Debut Flight in South Korea

South Korea showcases two-seater drone taxi in downtown Seoul

Is Ehang any closer to actually launching a passenger drone program? A new demonstration in Seoul, South Korea could make you think so (see video above), but we’re not so sure—when you watch the video, it doesn’t look like there are any people in the drone taxi. You might recall that Ehang announced the launch of a drone taxi program in Dubai back in 2017, but that never materialized. We were pretty excited back then, but since it never came to fruition we’ve been holding our enthusiasm at bay when it comes to drone taxis. That being said, this demonstration was very cool to watch, and we’re still excited about the possibility of flying around in huge, autonomous drones some day.


Former Congressmen Urge Lawmakers to Avoid Sweeping Country-of-Origin Drone Bans


A recent op-ed by former House Representatives Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Jeff Denham (R-CA) published in Morning Consult strongly criticizes the DOJ’s recent ban on Chinese drones. The two called the ban “sweeping and ineffectual,” stating that “. . . In some cases, overly broad bans have been imposed that are actually hindering the ability of federal agencies to carry out their work.” Both men formerly served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees and had key roles in the creation of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016.


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