Get Ready for the Helicopter size Drone

“This drone is not delivering books,” said Janina Frankel-Yoeli, VP, Marketing, Urban Aeronautics who spoke at the recent LA Drone Summit held on March 20, 2017 in downtown Los Angeles.

A video demo of the prototype drone developed by Israeli tech firm Urban Aeronautics was one of the evening’s highlights.

Looking more like a flying car than a drone, Frankel-Yoeli says The Cormorant drone can carry a bigger payload then a helicopter (around half a ton), travels at a whopping 115 miles an hour, and can get into tight canyons for tough missions. Someday this car-size drone could be used to do a medical evacuation on the battlefield, a rescue in tight canyon where a helicopter can’t fit, and because it’s unmanned – could more safely control a fire or chemical blast.

“It goes where a helicopter can’t because it has no rotors,” explained Frankel-Yoeli.

Frankel-Yoeli also acknowledged that nothing of this size that is remotely piloted has been FAA approved. Getting FAA approval is one of several hurdles to clear before this autonomous vehicle hits the market in 2020.

Today Hollywood movies depict drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) as small missile carrying robots used for aerial attacks. In the Bourne Legacy Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an agent of a CIA program living in the woods is targeted by a drone strike. Cross outsmarts the drone strike by removing the radio-frequency identification implanted in his thigh and force-feeding it to a wolf who is then blown up by a missile.

But the panelists assembled at LA’s Drone Summit say Hollywood’s version of smaller size drones or autonomous swarm drones in military applications, is just one possible scenario.

Moderator Van Espahbodi, Founder of Starburst Accelerator led the evening’s talk focusing on what it will take for drone technology to take off. Panelists included Daniel Burton, Founder of DroneBase, Janina Frankel-Yoeli, VP Marketing Urban Aeronautics, William Goodwin, Head of Legal for Airmap, and Adrienne Lindren, Business Development Manager of the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

In regards to autonomous flying, Daniel Burton an FAA Certified pilot and founder of DroneBase, an online platform for booking commercial drone services sees autonomy as years away still. He himself says that DroneBase isn’t necessarily working towards creating an autonomous fleet for commercial drone use.

“We see the human pilot as part of the equation,” said Burton, describing the commercial test flights that DroneBase is currently running.

Many challenges face drone technology being adopted. Noise being one of the biggest complaints about drones, was cited by Adrienne Lindren of the LA Mayor’s Office. Drones fly in airspace below 400 feet and consumers are voicing concern about the noise (caused by propellers) and also the invasion of privacy.

“Do people want a drone with a camera mounted on it flying outside their window?”, Lindren said. She cited this as just one of the questions she is getting from citizens. The Los Angeles Mayor’s office in all this debate (as with its stance toward autonomous cars) she says is trying to be less of a hindrance and promote innovation for business.

Business in Los Angeles of course means filming movies. It’s no secret that Hollywood is interested in using Drones to film movies cheaply, more safely, and to capture better aerial shots. But due to regulations some productions such as action film The Expendables for now at least, are doing their drone filming in Bulgaria where strict FAA regulations don’t apply.

Airmap, an early stage startup in Santa Monica, hopes to make drones a part of everyday lie by building the airspace services platform to let drone sfly safely. At a minimum this means building software that allows drones to detect a plane flying space and prevent crashes into larger commercial airplanes, says AirMap’s William Goodwin.

How will drones impact our lives in the next ten years?

The trends, innovations and how to predict how UAVs are going to change the way we live seems hard to say at this point.

From saving costs of search and rescue missions, delivering medical supplies, or decontaminating a chemical explosion drones have some good applications beyond warfare. But drones also face many challenges like FAA regulations, consumer privacy and safety concerns, and how to prevent an autonomous swarm fleet from falling into enemy hands – until the robotic technology takes off.

One thing the panel did make clear is that drones and new innovative prototype drones, are here today.

And more importantly, the basic software services, innovators behind design breakthroughs, and pilots to man them don’t seem to be going anywhere.


Serving Your Community, There’s an App for That: A Look at Five Forward-Thinking LA Startups

Think that the Internet is about sharing that epic GoPro surfing video of you in Costa Rica, buying designer shoes, or watching Justin Beiber YouTube videos? Think again.

There’s a new kind of entrepreneur on the scene. Startups are exploring how to use cutting-edge technology for social impact.

Today mobile apps are helping case workers work with refugee children in Africa, startups are building affordable solar powered houses in India, and a slick online campaign raised enough money to rescue 600 North Korean refugees from human trafficking. At “Beyond Yourself: Technology for Social Impact” an event hosted by Cross-Campus co-location workspace in Santa Monica on March 23, 2017 panelists discussed several different ways to use technology for good.

Here’s how five Southern California startups are making an impact:

Rise: Solving the world’s refugee crisis with a paradigm shift, using Cloud Computing App
Max Lansing from Rise says there are 65 million refugees worldwide. The problem is that the humanitarian coordination system designed to meet refugee needs is filled with outdated and inefficient tools. It takes two years on average for a refugee child to receive minimum core protective services.

Startup Rise is deploying a mobile technology platform to speed the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid to children.

“Today we are working with a Berlin social services agency, to help them identify faster how many refugee youth are living and Berlin and who needs help,” explains Lansing the company’s lead engineer. “Social workers are spending too much time filling out paper reports, now they can use a cloud database to launch a well-organized intervention”.

Starbucks with Wi-Fi hot spots are not easy to come by in East Africa. Rise’s tools are designed to work in Internet and infrastructure poor settings, relying on portable Wi-Fi, solar device charging, and technologies common in developing countries.

Funraise: the best online fundraising tools in one powerful platform
When it comes to the back-office side of technology non-profits are not known for being cutting edge or efficient in return on investment – enter Funraise and its team of consultants. Start with a pre-built template and build your brand into every aspect of your donation campaign experience. Whether it’s crowd funding, getting and keeping re-curing donors, or doing wealth screening Funraise has helped raise over 15 million in grass roots campaigns.

A slick donation site in no time that is on-message, ties in your branding, and keeps your loyal donors? Justin Wheeler thinks better technology and his team of front end developers and digital marketing strategists could be the secret weapons to help nonprofits maximize their impact.

GivSum: Connecting individuals and charities on a single platform to change the world
GiveSum is a one-stop source for volunteers, nonprofit organizations and corporations. Shawn Wehan started GivSum in 2013 after noticing how many nonprofits had technology issues. Nonprofits were using PayPay to manage donations, or Volunteer Match, or an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of volunteers or Sales Force.

The online platform gives charities an effective tool for fundraising. But the social media component Wehan says is key, because it allows people who volunteer to be role models and inspire others to do more.

Amped Innovation: Radically Affordable Energy
The world population will add 2 billion more people in the next ten years, says Amped Innovation’s Robert Woolery,  But the existing legacy power grid will cost too much to upgrade.

Enter Amped Innovation, an early stage startup that wants to put the power grid into people’s own hands Amped Innovation is building a prototype affordable solar home for people living off the grid. Designed as a high performing, low cost solar powered home Amped Innovation says the product is getting early traction in Africa and India. Unlike ordering a Tesla, an energy efficient amped house is designed for people making four dollars a day. Customers can start by purchasing a single solar panel and add as they go.

Teens Exploring Technology (TxT)
Founder Oscar Menjivar is on a mission to give inner city youth in the rougher neighborhoods of Los Angeles early exposure to writing code and computer science.

TXT gives young Latino and black youth an opportunity to express themselves through Computer Science and Entrepreneurship. Students in the program learn about leadership skills, programming, and UX design.

Menijvar’s hope is that by exposing teens to programming and UI design early, they can uplift themselves from poverty and get on the pathway to college. President Obama acknowledged Menjivar for his work helping LA’s low-income teenagers see careers in  science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) as possible.