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Google Testing an Airborne Camera Drone 182

mbone writes "The Blogoscoped site carries news that Google has purchased a German 'Microdrone' for evaluation (here is the original German version). These devices can take off, fly a mission, and land automatically using GPS. They can carry night-vision cameras or even 'see-through-walls' Far IR cameras. Of course, the maker of these drones assures us that they cannot be a 'Big Brother in the sky' because that is 'verboten.' Is it just me, or is Google entering dangerous airspace here? It seems like the ruckus from a backyard-after-dark addition to Street View could completely overshadow the legal tussles Google has already encountered with its street-level photography." Reader Jaymi clues us to another airborne effort a couple of Google employees are mounting with some help from NASA Ames: the NexusOne PhoneSat project — to determine if low-cost mobile phone components can withstand space travel.
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Google Testing an Airborne Camera Drone

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  • Can != will (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:31PM (#33183276)
    Yes, the drones can carry long wavelength cameras to see through walls. They could also carry nuclear weapons. Irrational paranoia aside, Google is probably just trying to compete with Bing's Birds-Eye map capabilities.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:45PM (#33183366)

    I don't see how these would be any different than their existing aerial photography. All of the high resolution stuff they have is from planes with cameras at a few thousand feet.

    Their's, not their competitions' who use aerial photographs from about 100m to do "Bird's Eye View". It's much better than Google's and I find myself using Bing's maps more and more. Perhaps this is so that they can do the same sort of thing w/o having to outfit a Cessna.

  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:48PM (#33183388)

    In fact, there are several. Aside from an RC plane of some sort, all you need is about $100 in parts and some electronics know-how to build your own (basic) UAV.

    Of course, it won't be as sophisticated as a multi-million dollar micro-UAV or one of the Air Force's Predator drones, but medium range (several miles) surveillance, automated take-offs and landings, GPS waypoint tracking, infrared cameras, etc. are not outside the realm of the hobbyist.

    Check out http://www.diydrones.com/ [diydrones.com] to see what I mean.

  • by hkz ( 1266066 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:02PM (#33183474)

    In fact, some Dutch OpenStreetMap people are working on their own UAV, also with mapping in mind:

    http://blog.opengeo.nl/ [opengeo.nl]

  • by paul248 ( 536459 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:03PM (#33183484) Homepage

    Google already has a 45-degree bird's eye view in some areas. Switch to satellite view and zoom into their Mountain View headquarters, for example.

  • by deapbluesea ( 1842210 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:26PM (#33183658)

    Aside from an RC plane of some sort, all you need is about $100 in parts and some electronics know-how to build your own (basic) UAV.

    While the FAA has recognized that most of these toy UAVs still qualify as RC aircraft (as long as they stay below 400 and fly within line of sight), it is illegal in the United States for a corporation or government entity to purchase or build a UAV for commercial or public use without completing an airworthiness certificate and obtaining a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA [faa.gov].

    Per the FAA:

    Currently, civilian companies may not operate a UAS as part of a business without obtaining a Special Airworthiness Certificate - Experimental Category (SAC-EC). However, this SAC-EC is very limited in scope of operational use. Contact FAA for details or see FAA Order 8130.34.

    So don't expect Google to be flying this over populated areas for quite a long time. Current estimates are about 2030 or later before UAVs are fully integrated in the national airspace, and they very likely will seldom be allowed over densely populated areas without some major public good justification

  • Re:Pull! (Score:4, Informative)

    by FeepingCreature ( 1132265 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:32PM (#33183710)
    It's called Poe's Law. Look it up.

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.