April 22, 2016

Drones – the sky is the limit

Filed under: News — csadm @ 3:14 pm

Our understanding of the world is generally defined at first by a concept and then narrowed down to specifics. The same goes for our current fascination with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones. The term UAS is self-explanatory, whereas the more commonly used term ‘drone’ refers to the resemblance, in looks and sound, of some of these aircraft to the male bee. Just like the male bee, high-tech drones are used for work that is “dull, dirty or dangerous.” Poor drones.

As a concept, unmanned aircraft systems are remotely piloted from ground control and vary from those used in military operations, for spying or bombing raids to professional photography and video production, and now to recreational ‘model aircraft’ use that can be given as Christmas gifts and flown – often to the annoyance of others – around the house and in the backyard.

OK. That’s the semantics, the definition taken care of. It’s now time to drill down and focus on one kind of ‘drone’ that is of particular interest in Papua New Guinea.



I am going to look at a quadcopters – a kind of drone that uses four propellers. In the late 2000s, advances in electronics have allowed the production of cheap lightweight flight controllers, accelerometers, global positioning system (GPS) and cameras to be built on board such devices, interacting with a ground control tablet.

Quadcopters are small and maneuverable, can be flown indoors and outdoors, and considering the amount of cutting-edge technology involved, they are relatively inexpensive.

We often think of drones as being associated with photography and video. Lately there have been some stunning images of Port Moresby, Mt Hagen and other parts of the country captured by drones.

According to our friend and professional photographer Rocky Roe who owns and operates one such UAS we have witnessed amazing progress in a very short period of time.

“The drone I use is a DJI Inspire 1 that uses a GPS to help me, at ground control, position it. The drone will hover to a position and light wind will not blow it around, as used to happen with earlier drones. This is a huge step forward.”

“I have a tablet mounted on my controller that allows me to view exactly what the drone’s camera sees. Previously you had to guess what you were photographing. Nowadays, all photos are correctly framed.”

Apart from photography, there are a number of potential uses for quaddies and other forms of UAS or drones – it would appear that the sky is the limit.

Think about this. Around the world drones have been used as a cost-effective tool for surveying, search and rescue missions, aerial surveying of crops, inspecting power lines and pipelines, counting wildlife, delivering medical supplies to remote or otherwise inaccessible regions, reconnaissance operations, parcel delivery, cooperative environment monitoring, border patrol missions, convoy protection, surveillance and crime prevention, coordinating humanitarian aid, detection of poaching, crowd monitoring and so on. Basically anything that requires or could benefit from an “eye in the sky”.

As one archeologist put it: “You can go up three metres and photograph a room, 300 metres and photograph a site, or you can go up 3,000 metres and photograph the entire valley.” That’s our drone.


The Global Market

Like most advances in human technology, it is sad to say that drones have been developed primarily for military purposes. It’s a strange human quirk. War seems to bring out “the best” in us.

Despite the growth of the quadcopter market, it is expected that by 2024 military drones will account for US$10 billion out of a potential US$13 billion global market.

The USA operated over 9,000 military drones in 2014 – and remember, these are high-tech and very expensive pieces of equipment.

As far as “mass consumer” drone manufacture, development and marketing goes, Chinese company DJI leads the way by far with US$500m global sales and as stated by The Economist magazine, DJI is at the forefront of the consumer drone industry.

Based in Shenzhen, China DJI was founded in 2006. According to the company, it benefits from direct access to suppliers as well as the massive pool of young, creative talent that is currently driving China to an unprecedented age of prosperity.

DJI boasts of “an unparalleled commitment to R&D, a culture of constant innovation and curiosity, and a focus on transforming complex technology into easy-to-use devices.”

Building on the ethos of “form follows function,” DJI claims that its products combine advanced technology with dynamic designs and that its products are redefining industries. Professionals in filmmaking, agriculture, conservation, search and rescue, energy infrastructure, and more trust DJI to bring new perspectives to their work and help them accomplish feats safer, faster, and with greater efficiency than ever before.

DJI manufactures a range of consumer drones and accessories. The Phantom and Inspire series being the most popular. Remember our friend Rocky Roe is the owner of a DJI Inspire 1 model.

DJI’s most popular series is the Phantom series and the company’s best model aimed at consumers and enthusiasts is the Phantom 3 Professional, which flies through the air via an easy-to-use remote control and records stabilized 4K footage with a wide-angle lens.


The Phantom 3 Professional is a white quadcopter, with four pylons (each with a rotor), a bottom-mounted camera, and landing struts. The drone measures about 23 inches from wingtip to wingtip and weighs just under 3 pounds.

LED lights at the bottom of each wing help you keep track of it in the air. It’s easy enough to attach the propellers with your fingers—the motors and rotors are both color-coded to ensure proper installation.

The remote control for the Phantom 3 Professional is well designed, with more physical controls, an integrated battery, and the ability to accommodate a full-size iPad as your flight monitor. The 720p Live View feed that streams to the monitor is crisp and smooth (within a reasonable operating range), so you can pilot the drone with confidence even when it’s left visual range.

The Phantom 3 Professional is extremely stable in the air. If you want it to stay in one place, it will do so with ease. And the 3-axis camera gimbal does a fantastic job of keeping the video footage smooth when the Phantom is moving at faster speeds.


Drones: Dos and Don’ts

Of course all responsible drone users want to keep the industry free of nasty incidents and bad publicity. However, there have been a number of incidents around the world that have drawn attention to the darker side of drones. In the UK for instance, pilots were calling for greater research after there were 23 near-misses between drones and airliners during a six month space last year.

Controlling a drone is a common-sense practice, but as is apparent time and time again, common sense is not all that common.

Here are a few handy tips to keep you out of trouble:

The United States has very commonsense guidelines for flying drones. You can learn more by visiting their website www.faa.gov/uas/publications/model_aircraft_operators

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) makes a very valid point. That is, model aircraft operators are nothing new. Model aircraft and model aircraft clubs have been around for decades. In fact, the legislation goes all the way back to 1981 and it states simply that model aircraft operators cannot fly their crafts more than 400 feet above the ground, must keep them within sight, and should not operate within five miles of an airport without first informing the airport’s operating authorities or aircraft control tower.

The FAA legislation also suggests that there should be regulation regarding commercial use of drones. Under the heading “Wanna Get Paid? You’ll need a Permit” the FAA states: “if you’re planning on using a drone for profit, such as to film a movie or a commercial or any project where you’ll be paid, then you will need to apply to the FAA for a commercial exemption. Even if you’re simply planning on doing a site survey or mapping out an area, you’ll still need to seek out approval.”

This is all food for thought as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of PNG (CASA) are currently deliberating and drafting guidelines for our own use of drones within Papua New Guinea.



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April 13, 2016

Three Gadgets that could Save Your Life

Filed under: News — csadm @ 11:51 am

I’ve been watching Crime and Investigation (CITV) lately and it got me thinking. What are a few devices that we could all easily carry that would be practical in case of an emergency?

From small emergencies such as power outages and situations that require running repairs, to major life-threatening events.

We have all experienced the small situations, but what about the major ones? It may well be what you have stashed in your backpack or handbag that could save your life.

On CITV there is a program called Panic 9-1-1. The program takes the viewer on the ultimate horrifying experience of hearing 9-1-1 calls (000 calls) straight from the mouth of the caller…taking you second by second, minute by minute as the horrifying moments unfold.

Like the story of the nineteen your old college student that was abducted by her ex-boyfriend and thrown, covered and locked, in the back of a truck.

As it turned out, her mobile phone saved her life as she called 9-1-1 and by keeping the line open, first-responders were able to track the call and pinpoint the location, eventually rescuing the young lady unharmed.

So your mobile phone is definitely top of the list of gadgets that could save your life. More about that later. For now, here are a couple of other gadgets that may well come in handy.

Nitecore ‘Tiny Monster’ Flashlights

NiteCore make the world’s brightest flashlights – they are ultra-bright, super effective, easy to use and waterproof up to 2m. The ‘tiny monster’ range are hand-sized units that belt out up to a whopping 3,500 – 4,000 lumens, depending on the model. Its thermal protection circuit prevents it from overheating from all that power. That is some serious light, capable of blinding someone so you can run away, if needs be. Not to mention the fact that a flashlight would be handy if you were locked in the boot of a car.

The sheer amount of light coming out of this tiny monster is shaped by a state of the art reflector, giving you a wide, smooth beam with a much longer throw of 363m. A stainless steel crenulated bezel protects the mineral glass from drops and impacts.

The patented 2-stage switch lets you use the light at close range or to conserve battery power, by selecting only the brightness you need. The switch works like a camera shutter button; press it half way to switch between brightness or press it all the way for a maximum outputs. One handed operation at its best.

If you find yourself in an emergency and need to signal someone, press the switch all the way down twice in quick succession to access strobe mode. You are guaranteed to be seen. Lockout mode allow you to not only conserve battery power, it helps you avoid accidental activation of the light during transport. The TM26 model has additional features such as a location beacon, rapid flashing, SOS and the previously-mentioned strobe mode. All models have an optional battery charger. Nitecore is the choice of law enforcement, tactical operations, and emergency personnel around the world. Count me in.

Leatherman ‘Charge’ Range of Multi-tools

The Charge is one of the most popular multi-tools from the company that invented multi-tools. The AL version is upgraded with stronger pliers, diamond-coated files, and aluminum alloy handles. Just the thing to have stashed in your backpack, purse or utility belt if ever you are thrown in the back of a truck.
The Leatherman Charge AL includes scissors that slice through just about anything, with beveled edges that allow them to get extra close to whatever you’re cutting.

Bit drivers for versatility, diamond-coated files for detailed work, and a 154CM clip-point knife are all housed in 6061-T6, hard-anodized aluminum alloy handles.

From a survival standpoint, it has almost everything you need in one tool.
A one-hand opening, 2.9” blade made of Crucible’s excellent 154cm stainless steel. A wood saw that rivals the efficiency of Victorinox’s vaunted Swiss Army knife saws. A two-sided file, a serrated blade in 420HC stainless steel for cutting rope and plastics.

The best thing is that all the tools lock when unfolded, so no worries about having them fold over on your fingers the way non-locking blades can. The flat head and phillips-head screwdrivers can also be handy devices, depending on your situation.


Let’s face it, just about everyone these days has a smartphone and therefore access to social media. One thing you should know is that all those friends you have on Facebook, well… most are not actually your friends.

Rewind back to the introduction of this article. The girl in the back of the truck? She was abducted by someone she had “friended” on Facebook. A former boyfriend. A crazy “ex”.

The first thing you should do is start culling your contact list and use social media apps wisely. I hate to say it but, outside your family, you could probably count your true friends on one hand.

The other hand you will probably need for your Leatherman multi-tool.

Once you have cleaned up your list of contacts, you are now ready to think about making life less miserable for those that really care about you.

My advice is to consider one of many personal security apps available on Google Play or in App Stores.

An app such as bSafe is a personal safety app designed to keep you and your friends safer 24/7. It’s packed with features for both everyday safety and real emergencies, making it the ultimate safety tool for you and everyone you love. bSafe puts safety in your hand – for free! Set up your own personal social safety network today.

Apps such as bSafe can help in all situations. You can:

There are other apps that use “push” technology to your mobile phone, so that you can be aware of events that may impact on your personal security such as movements inside your house while you’re not there. The last thing you need is your crazy ex moving around inside your house while you’re not there.

The d-Link is a simple and inexpensive wi-fi motion sensor device that plugs in to your wall at home and once paired to your smartphone, it can alert you as to movements within your house.

Your smartphone can be a real lifesaver. It’s your lifeline to 000 emergency and friends. It can make use of wi-fi and various apps such as GPS to track your movements and ensure your safety.

Add to that some useful hardware such as a powerful hand-size Nitecore “tiny monster” torch and a Leatherman Charge Multi-tool and the odds of you surviving an emergency have just increased significantly.

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