Drone News Roundup: NASA Ingenuity First Drone Ever to Fly on Another Planet, Drone Helps Police with Active Shooter in Novel Way, and More!

BY Zacc Dukowitz
23 April 2021

This week we’re covering the first flight ever of a drone on another planet, which took place this week when NASA’s unmanned Ingenuity helicopter flew on Mars.

We’re also covering a first-of-its kind public safety use case for drones that helped police apprehend an active shooter without anyone getting hurt, a futuristic use of drones in the United Arab Emirates to produce rain, a grant that DRONERESPONDERS received to help standardize the use of drones in public safety, and Flyability’s release of new software to help inspectors pinpoint the location of defects found during inspections.

Now on to the links!

Perseverance’s Ingenuity Is the First Drone Ever to Fly on Another Planet

First Video of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter in Flight, Includes Takeoff and Landing (High-Res)

NASA’s Ingenuity drone flew on Mars this week, making it the first aircraft in history—manned or unmanned—to perform a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The solar-powered helicopter drone arrived on Mars with the Perseverance Rover when it landed two months back, on February 18th. The Ingenuity took flight on the red planet at 3:34 a.m. EST on Monday, April 19, a time the Ingenuity team had determined would be optimal for energy and flight conditions. After takeoff, the drone climbed 10 feet vertically, hovered for 30 seconds, then descended, logging a total flight time of 39.1 seconds.


Drone Distracts Active Shooter in First-of-Its Kind Public Safety Drone Use Case

Critical Incident Community Briefing: Shooting Near 58th Ave NE & Robinson

Skip to 10:01 in the video above to see the section devoted to the use of the drone

In what appears to be a first-of-its kind use of drones in public safety, law enforcement in Norman, Oklahoma recently distracted an active shooter with a drone. When the drone flew over the shooter’s head, he turned his attention to it and began shooting at it, giving police the window of opportunity they needed to apprehend him. The shooter had been hiding and shooting intermittently for two and a half hours when officers sent up a drone to get a visual of his location. The drone wound up providing much more than visual data, serving as a tool to disrupt the shooter’s behavior.


Drones Could Help Make Rain in the United Arab Emirates

Clouds over Dubai in the UAE (image source)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has given $1.4 million to British researchers to investigate ways to induce rain in the arid region using drones. The approach researchers are testing is to beam electricity into clouds by drone, delivering pulses of charged ions that will expand and merge water droplets, producing rainfall. The method is called “cloud seeding” and it’s not the only way the UAE is trying to induce rain. It already boosts rainfall by as much as 30% a year using manned aircraft to drop chemicals into clouds, and it’s currently funding eight other “rain enhancement” projects, with a total budget of $13.6 million.


DRONERESPONDERS Gets Federal Grant to Standardize Drone Use by Public Safety Agencies


The Airborne International Response Team (AIRT) DRONERESPONDERS program recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to standardize Public Safety and Emergency Drone Operations programs. The funds will help create best practices for public safety agencies in establishing training programs and standards around the use of UAS in their work. DRONERESPONDERS has already partnered with standards organization ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) to standardize training for the use of drones in public safety and emergency service applications. We imagine this grant will help the organization further that work, and ultimately provide universal standards that public safety agencies everywhere can use when seeking to create drone programs.


Flyability Gets into the Software Game with Inspector 3.0

flyability-inspector 3.0
Photo credit: Flyability

This week Flyability released Inspector 3.0, software made to accompany its Elios 2 indoor drone. While the first two iterations of Inspector provided some limited functionality to help inspectors create reports, the new version comes with a first-of-its kind feature: the ability to quickly create sparse 3D models that contain accurate locational information. Inspectors can make these models without needing to do anything beyond collecting the visual data they need for their inspection. That is, no extra flight path or data collection considerations are required, as they are when creating a photogrammetric 3D model. The key aspect of these sparse 3D models is that they can show inspectors exactly where defects found during inspections are located. Inspectors typically use a mishmash of data points to figure out where a defect they see in their data is located, combining barometric measurements, maps, blueprints, and reference points in video feeds. Inspector 3.0 solves this problem for inspectors by showing them exactly where a defect is within an asset, allowing them to return to that spot to collect more information or share it with maintenance workers so they can perform repairs.


Make sure to sign up for our free weekly newsletter using the button below so you can get our weekly newsletter every Saturday, with this roundup and our other featured stories from the week.

Join a global community of


drone enthusiasts.