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Businesses Programming

Why Developers Are Important To the Drone Industry (sdtimes.com) 122

dmleonard618 writes: There is a new market that industry leaders think developers should take advantage of: Drones. While drones are becoming more and more popular, the industry is just opening up and it needs developers to take it to the next level. "Drones are the next mobile," said Thomas Haun, a VP from PrecisionHawk. Haun went on to explain that like mobile, drones are going to completely change how we go about our lives. And if that doesn't attract developers, COO from Skyward added: "How often do you get to invent a new industry?"
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Why Developers Are Important To the Drone Industry

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  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @06:22PM (#50730873)

    No they're not. I've never had a smartphone crash on my head, break through my window or spy on me from above. And the air space is regulated in most countries, so drones aren't anywhere near the next mobile.

    Drones have their place, but not in the hands of everyone.

    • Helo style drones are highly energy inefficient for transportation. Once the greenies realize that, the party is over.
      • Inefficient compared to what?

        Driving a 6000 lb. delivery truck from stop sign to stop sign to deliver a few envelopes?
         

        • Inefficient compared to what?

          Driving a 6000 lb. delivery truck from stop sign to stop sign to deliver a few envelopes?

          Probably yes. The energy for a drone to deliver that truckload of envelopes is probably more than you think. Drones must not only stop and start, but they must lift as well, and maintain lift throughout the delivery path. Once a truck is rolling it takes very little energy to keep it rolling.

          • I'd like to see the math on this.

            A truck only uses about 16% of its energy for forward motion, the rest is released as heat.

            A drone gets to take advantage of alternating current to provide motion, which is a LOT more energy efficient.

            I can understand that the truck carries more, therefore using scale to increase its energy efficiency, but unless we've got a good mathematical model we can't really rule out drones as being less energy efficient.

            • Drones would have to overcome the tremendous energy it takes to maintain lift with their efficiency. Have you ever seen what it takes to lift a single person for a few minutes using a helo style system? Those batteries could easily move 10 people an equivalent distance or more in a rolling vehicle. If you took the battery from an electric bike with a 2 mile range, how far do you think a drone could fly you with that?
              • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

                Note that drones don't necessarily have to fly. I was looking at a demo video of a spider drone on the web a while back.

              • It's fine to speculate, but without a mathematical model, you can't conclude one way or another.

                For example, the energy required to lift with batteries probably doesn't produce much heat at all, meanwhile just to turn the truck engine on you're expelling a LOT of energy as heat. Acceleration will produce even more heat.

                You're also not taking into account that a drone would likely be able to just rely on its momentum most of the time, expelling minimal energy to keep itself in motion (depending on the drone

                • Electric motors do produce heat. Feel a drone motor and you'll realize how hot it gets. Now, scale that up and heat scales up as well.

                  Yes, it would be better to have the numbers, but that does not mean we can't apply experience and make a judgement call. Again, I'd as you to think about the tremendous energy it takes to keep something aloft in a helo style vehicle, I don't think you appreciate just how much energy that is.

                  A truck also is an efficient way to take a large load of items from a distributi
                • Here is a reference point with real numbers;

                  http://www.personal-drones.net... [personal-drones.net]

                  This copter can carry two people for 30 minutes on a fully charged 17.5 KWh battery.

                  http://www.walmart.com/ip/4070... [walmart.com]

                  This electric scooter can carry two people and has a range of 40 miles per charge, so lets assume two people is closer to 25 miles, and at 15 miles per hour that would easily be over an hour of travel time. The battery for this is only 0.8 KWh.

                  As you can see, its not even close.
                  • Umm...you compared an electric scooter with a drone. An electric scooter is invariably going to be more energy efficient than a 6,000lb truck that runs on diesel or petrol for the same reason that an electric car is more energy efficient than a petrol car.

                    • I did that comparison to show the difference in energy required to maintain a cargo load airborne vs rolling it in a vehicle. The two items chosen for comparison have a similar load capacity, and therefore it serves perfectly for that comparison. I chose both being electric so that the real energy difference is not lost in confusion over motor/engine efficiency. So, what I have demonstrated is that, regardless of motor technology, it requires much more energy to transport a given load with a helo type vehic
                    • And at the same time, you're outright dismissing the much greater energy density of petrol, which is completely consumed when it combusts, and very little of it converts to kinetic energy. At any rate, Jeff Bezos seems pretty confident that it will use less energy. Does that make him right? I don't know, but the points you're making don't seem conclusive.

                    • Are you trying to argue that ICE is less efficient than electric, or that flying is less efficient than trucking? I am talking the latter and my point was made solidly. I don't give a flying crap what you think Bezos thinks, or if you want to go on ignoring the laws of physics. My point is obvious to any engineer. You can power drones with petrol or electric, trucks with petrol or electric, and my point still stands. You do know that you can have an electric truck, right?

                      Have you got any quantitative in
                    • Let me simplify this for you. As I've show in my comparison above, it takes over 25 times (and that is being generous) the energy delivered to the propeller shafts of a drone than delivered to the drive shaft of a rolling vehicle to transport an equivalent load for an equivalent time/distance. If you think you can make up for that elsewhere in the engine or motor part of the system, good luck.
                    • Are you trying to argue that ICE is less efficient than electric

                      Yes.

                      Have you got any quantitative input into this discussion, or are you just going to keep saying "I think this, I think that, he thinks that,.......?".

                      I'm looking for quantitative input. You meanwhile are saying "I think this, therefore I absolutely 100% confirm that, and I base it on absolutely nothing" and then adding a temper tantrum in the mix.

                    • I showed the numbers that compare flight energy to vehicle energy, that is substantive and applicable. If you want to ignore it fine. There is a reason a guy can run 100 miles on a bike, but the human power helicopter flight record is 88 seconds. If you don't get it, I can't explain it to you.
                    • I showed the numbers that compare flight energy to vehicle energy, that is substantive and applicable. If you want to ignore it fine. There is a reason a guy can run 100 miles on a bike, but the human power helicopter flight record is 88 seconds. If you don't get it, I can't explain it to you.

                      First of all, human powered flight requires an external construction that weighs almost as much as the person powering it.

                      Second of all, you just demonstrated that you don't even have anything even remotely close to resembling reliable mathematical model. Think about it, your first comparison (which isn't a good one, by the way, because the chair is likely designed for being able to still work after long distances rather than speed) shows a 25 fold difference, and now this one is dramatically higher.

                      Likewis

                    • I don't need to prove anything to you. I've given you enough information to at the least significantly doubt your assumption that drone flight requires much more energy than wheeled vehicular transportation. The fact that you come up with excuses to ignore the examples tells me more about you than anything you've stated about the technical topic at hand. I don't mind trying to help people that don't have a technical background understand the factors involved, but when that person becomes obstinate I am done
      • Helo style drones are highly energy inefficient for transportation.

        A 2 ton truck delivering an 8 ounce package is even more energy inefficient.

        • A 2 ton truck delivering an 8 ounce package is even more energy inefficient.

          When does that happen? Trucks leave distribution centers full of packages and bring them to a remote delivery area where they are distributed. In only one trip all those packages are near their delivery destination.

          There may be rare cases where a truck is rolled solely to deliver one small package. I suppose in those cases drones will be a better choice. Now on to the other 99.99% of deliveries.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        Helo style drones are highly energy inefficient for transportation. Once the greenies realize that, the party is over.

        History doesn't care what reactionary Greenists think, and drones are the wave of the future. They'll be more common than cellphones in a couple of decades.

    • by Morgon ( 27979 )

      To be fair, have you actually had a 'drone' crash on your head, break through your window, or (legitimately) "spy" on you from above? I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm simply suggesting that such broad, kneejerk reactions to this technology are not constructive.

      • Twenty years ago, the only people who had computers were people who knew how to use computers.

        Today, all stupid assholes have one and we have things like Twitter and Facebook, viruses, trojans, ransomware, etc.

        Now imagine drones in twenty years, following you around trying to sell you stuff, taking photos of every second you're outside trying to capture that one awkward moment that could be used against you, recording your every move to know your daily routine and selling that information to thieves. That n

        • by Morgon ( 27979 )

          Might wanna loosen that tinfoil hat a bit.
          Not one of these things will happen. Especially not to you.

      • My drone crashed on my head when it was low on juice. Good thing it was palm-sized.
        • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

          I've crashed mine into me a few times. Lucky I bought a pack of spare propellers.

        • by Morgon ( 27979 )

          I'm a DJI fan, but have been thinking about getting one of those smaller ones just for dicking around with. What do you normally fly?

    • by Lumpio- ( 986581 )
      What comes to spying, your smartphone is probably more capable of doing that than a drone. Doesn't even need to follow you - you keep it with you all by yourself!
    • More importantly: regardless of how cool the product is, the cashflow in the industry is not only restricted, but also unpredictable - not a good combination for a stable career.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      re 'And the air space is regulated in most countries"
      The US mil has been trying drones for years. From the 1970's efforts with NITE GAZELLE NITE GAZELLE and the DASH prototypes.
      Battlefield UAVs of the United States https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      The gov/mil/contractor drone "industry" has been running in the US for decades just not for the wider public.
      As for the "agriculture, search and rescue, journalism, real estate, oil and gas, insurance, infrastructure surveying, photography, and videography i
    • If they need developers, there's a way to get them. Pay enough.

      COO from Skyward added: "How often do you get to invent a new industry?"

      Oh, that's the kind of thing you say when you don't pay enough. Problem solved.

    • No they're not. I've never had a smartphone crash on my head, break through my window or spy on me from above.

      You weren't standing close enough when I threw my last &%$# phone.

    • by ubrgeek ( 679399 )
      > or spy on me from above

      True. They do it from right next to your ear.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @06:26PM (#50730919)

    Drones are by no means the next cellphone. I know that you have to come up with a new gadget, trinket or toy every other year so people buy some new crap once the former market is saturated, but the very LAST thing this world needs is a bunch of morons who think they can program writing stuff for tools that can literally hit you over the head if handled improperly!

    Find another toy to make it the Next Best Thing, ok?

    • by s.petry ( 762400 )

      I was picturing the other kind of "Drone" in "Drone industry" It parallels what they are attempting to do by flooding the market with high school grads capable of coding.

    • I keep hearing about the 8-10lb cargo delivery drone for Amazon, UPS, whoever... Do you know what that monster is going to look like to be able to carry 8-10lbs any distance at all? Blades that will shred small to medium sized animals, for a start.

      • Small to medium sized animals will have sense enough to stay the hell away from things like that. People... not so much. And maybe hawks [youtube.com].

      • by jasno ( 124830 )

        The drone bikes/skateboards/small cars will come first. Especially easy when the cars are also driving themselves, however, cars currently integrate pretty well with bicycles, so I see no reason they couldn't integrate with a self-driving, smaller sized vehicle.

        There's no reason to send a package via air unless speed it the utmost priority. Even when Amazon can offer drone delivery by air, they'll likely deliver more packages via ground based drones. I see a future of skateboard-sized vehicles which grab

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Well, clearly the CEO of a drone company is going to try to convince everyone drones are the next big thing.
    • Drones are by no means the next cellphone.

      Low cost drones have been around for 1o years, and while they have niche uses and are a popular toy, they have not approached anything close to mobile phone adoption rates when in a similar period after they were introduced. We are talking many orders of magnitude in difference

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        If you had to charge a cellphone every five minutes, they wouldn't be very popular either.

        Before personal drones become ubiquitous, they need to become smaller, more capable, and run for at least a few hours on a charge (or be powered wirelessly by their owner somehow). That's not going to happen in the next week.

        • First and foremost they have to become useful for the average Joe. The cellphone did that. Even in its first incarnation it offered a benefit, i.e. that you can be talked to no matter where you are. Yes, people considered it a benefit if they can be pestered no matter where they are, don't ask me why, but they did.

    • > the very LAST thing this world needs is a bunch of morons who think they can program writing stuff for tools that can literally hit you over the head if handled improperly!

      And yet there are hundreds of thousands(?) of people writing software for other stuff that have worse outcomes.

      There is a reason for things like DO-178. It's so people can write code for aerospace.

  • I like the concept of drones.

    I write software. Daily. I've worked with a lot of software writers. I've worked with a lot of good ones, and even more bad ones. The concept of "more people writing drone software" scares the living hell out of me.

    We have "the brightest minds" working on automotive software and seem to have problems getting that right and now we want these same people (Read: My comment is sarcastic. Automotive software is shameful. Or, rather, its design is.) writing drone software? No, thanks.

    • by neminem ( 561346 )

      > "(Stay off my lawn!)"

      Literally! (Cause they'll be flying their drones onto your lawn by accident; see what I did there?)

      • by bioteq ( 809524 )

        Haha.

        Indeed!

        I feel for the poor sap who flies his drone in to my yard. I have three large dogs who would love to play with such a piece of....plastic. One of which whom LOVES to ingest it. And if neither one of them provide enough substantial damage to said drone, it may suffer some stone-age style wrath (A brick. And then I will make use of the left over hardware after they come looking for something that no longer exists)

    • On a side note, this is a great opportunity for senior programmers to teach the new kids (Stay off my lawn!) how to properly code and how to be mindful of security practices. But keep their code out of the sky. And off our roads. For now.

      Well this should be fun. What'll really make you pucker is that most of this code is written by amateurs. I'm about to build a 450 quad and the very first thing I'm gonna do to my control board is reflash it with Multiwii because the packaged software is poop. Actually, it's not even a drone with the stock software, just a quadcopter. It can't do anything more intelligent than self-level. Multiwii has GPS support, and support for "actions" like Return To Home. But hilariously, it's also a whole lot better a

      • by bioteq ( 809524 )

        I will admit, freely, that I know very little, outside of the basics of electronics, about drones. I know how they work, but that's about it.

        Hearing that the control systems are made by amateurs really does not surprise me. I've seen a trend lately of more and more people with no real clue of what they're doing, getting in to hardware/software design. Which, on its own, is AMAZING to hear; I love knowing more people are learning the trade. But stick with the Pi, arduino and other small systems. When you're

        • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

          We already require license to fly planes, even remote controlled ones. It's time to require them for drones (if they don't already) and to require code certification for any object flying more than 10 meters off the ground.

          Yeah, let's totally cripple a new industry by requiring kids to get a pilots' license for a drone that weighs an ounce and flies for five minutes between charges.

          This kind of knee-jerk reaction to innovation is the reason America is in deep decline.

          • by bioteq ( 809524 )

            I am referring to the ones that, obviously, weigh more than an ounce, especially considering I stated "higher than 10m."

            I am referring to the drones that actually fly hundreds of feet in altitude and hundreds of feet (or more) from the user. I am not for crippling it. I am for safe guarding it. With logic.

            A $40.00 drone from walmart? Fly it all you want.

            A $4,500 drone, purpose built to fly quite a ways, with strong motors, big power supplies and capable of carrying payloads of different types? License and c

            • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

              I am referring to the ones that, obviously, weigh more than an ounce, especially considering I stated "higher than 10m."

              1. You said 'drones'. You didn't say 'drones that cost $40 or less' (and, BTW, my tiny drone cost a lot more than $40).
              2. You clearly know nothing about drones, because mine weighs about an ounce and can climb to around 50m before it loses signal.

              So you don't know what you're talking about, but believe you have the right to tell everyone else what to do. If you're not a politician already, you're clearly a prime candidate.

              • by bioteq ( 809524 )

                I am not going to get in some dick waving argument with some random troll on slashdot. So I will leave with this:

                1) I clearly stated that I know little to nothing about drones, aside from their software and electronics. Nice attempt at an insult. if you had read the post, you would have noticed this.
                2) Your attempt at blasting my logical attempt at stating common sense license and certifications for hardware and software that are -capable of causing damage- (Drones larger than an ounce and fly for more than

          • Yeah, let's totally cripple a new industry by requiring kids to get a pilots' license for a drone that weighs an ounce and flies for five minutes between charges.

            You can buy a RTF 450 quad for under two hundred bucks, like one someone would actually want to own. I'm building my own and only saving fifty or so, although if you used a $4 Chinese arduino nano and a flea market-sourced motionplus and nunchuck for (pretty crappy but functional) sensors and built a couple of 3S1P Li-Ion packs from scavenged cells*, then used a $10 eBay frame and a $30 (with its specific USB to serial cable) HK 6ch 2.4 GHz radio, and a $55 set of motors/ESCs/props you could get it to maybe

  • Why software is important to hardware. (I think we had that one figured out decades before the first computer.)

    Drones are not the next mobile, but they might find an unexpected niche and surprise us.

  • "Developers" implies testing and experimentation, and it's getting more and more difficult to fly a drone in public anymore. How is that supposed to work?

  • There are delevelopers taking it to the next level [openpilot.org]. They are the same ones that have got it to where it is now - like autonomous plans that find people people lost the wilderness and drop a rescue package beside them [wikipedia.org].

    But maybe he is talking about a different species of developer entirely - the one that publish most of the crap found in app stores. When I think "developer", I think of a person who enjoys creating new things from code. That is the sort of developer who is driving openpilot, which is were

  • ...a developer working on something that will stop the engines of a drone in flight and I'll invest in it in a heartbeat!
  • Say drone now and you get the image of either silent military killers remotely controlled or quad or hexacopter buzzing around.

    The military drones will get more autonomous and even more scary. We haven't hit a real arms race in remote killing machines. It will come.

    The copter drones aren't going to fly (excuse the pun) long term. The noise that comes from the drones as the beat the air into submission is not scalable to many of them. I'm a tech nerd, but I'm not going to enjoy having continual buzzing.

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