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Transportation

Your Car: Aerial Drone Launcher? (dice.com) 65

Nerval's Lobster writes: Ford and Chinese technology company DJI (which manufactures drones that specialize in aerial photography) used the spotlight of this year's CES to announce a developer challenge: figure out how someone can use the dashboard touch-screen to launch (and land) a drone from the back of a pickup. While the challenge is framed as a "search-and-rescue system for the future," drone control from a moving vehicle has a lot more applications than search-and-rescue. In 2014, Renault designed a concept car that came with a small flying drone controllable via tablet or preset GPS waypoints. In theory, this "flying companion," launched from a retractable hatch in the roof, could prove especially useful at scanning the road ahead for possible traffic jams. (Renault hasn't yet announced a production model of the car.) So are drones-from-cars an odd sideshow? Maybe. But if they catch on, imagine the driver-distraction issues from trying to pilot a UAV while you're on the road.
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Your Car: Aerial Drone Launcher?

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  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @03:18AM (#51246789) Homepage Journal

    ... the collision-avoidance logic you'd need if e.g. on a busy highway lots of cars had a drone companion.

    • Plus the fact - in the Renault case - that there is no lack of surveying stations if you are looking for a traffic jam. Each and every car in the jam can tell you quite reliably that the jam is there, the problem is just getting that information distributed to other vehicles.
      • Good point. I use a BlackBerry phone, with the BB gps app on it. There's already plenty of traffic info available in it: jams, congestion, accidents. No need for a drone to do that.

        • I've used Waze too, unfortunately it's neither accurate nor quite precise enough to make the optimal decision in many cases.

          Just a while ago I was stuck in a jam on a highway and Waze/google were showing that there was, in fact, a traffic jam there. But it wasn't clear how long it was, exactly, how fast the vehicles were moving just beyond the visual range, etc. Which is what you want to know to make the decision whether it makes sense to take the nearest exit and go around it.

          So until we get better connect

      • People seem to really like trying to use their horns for that. Maybe we should just give every car a twitter account that goes HONK when the driver honks the horn. In addition to high volumes of HonkNet activity alerting people to traffic congestion, perhaps it could also be used to investigate crashes, tell your friends you're ready to pick them up, or make sure the whole internet knows you think that ass is fine.
  • In my mind, the use case for my personal vision is dwindling, though. There used to be a lot more relatively uninhabited back road. These days urban sprawl is filling all the great driving roads up with commuters making two-hour trips in each direction, but in a world with a lot of empty road it would be very cool to have a fixed-wing camera drone that would let you know when it was "safe" (for others, that is) to drive like a nutter. It doesn't actually have to go very fast (all things being relative) beca

    • I imagined it as a kid on pretty much every long drive I ever went on. Though I had at that time envisioned it as a RC craft with video feedback as opposed to a drone. At that time, as a passenger bored out of my mind, I would not have wanted a computer flying it anyway. I wanted to fly it.
      • Same here. fixed-wing, launched from the rooftop, with or without a hatch/sunroof opening.

        OP, back of a pickup??? Only appropriate for firewood and used tyres. Even if the aircraft were elevated above the cab roof, the ridiculous turbulence back there would screw things up. Best launch vehicles would be those with large flat roofs, including vans. Moving flat platform underneath provides additional lift for smooth takeoffs and landings.

  • Jams (Score:4, Funny)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @04:23AM (#51246925) Homepage

    In theory, this "flying companion," launched from a retractable hatch in the roof, could prove especially useful at scanning the road ahead for possible traffic jams.

    Yes, jams caused by crashed drones littering the road ahead.

    • Renault solved this problem 10 years ago. I get traffic jam updates via RDS on my 2006 Clio. Even when that is not up to date I can use either specific software in wide use in my country or just use Google Maps which has this data live and in real time.

      Why do it by drone other than the fact you can add the word drone to your marketing leaflet?

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        If you thought rubbernecking around the scene of the wreck was bad now, wait until everyone for a mile back has their drone out to see the twisted metal.

  • by shadey2 ( 793659 )
    Sounds very Bond...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Go, Speed Racer, Go!

    • Relevant clip
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoBzspCB25s

    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      it is the homing robot of Speed Racer which has always had me wondering why trains, espessially super fast ones, don't have a small robot to ID track failures before death and destruction occurs. That and all the Combat, westerns and Hogans Hero's shows with trains driving off blown up bridges.
      • it is the homing robot of Speed Racer which has always had me wondering why trains, espessially super fast ones, don't have a small robot to ID track failures before death and destruction occurs.

        Besides the formidable engineering challenges, I believe that usually when a train derails due to track failure, it would have looked fine until the weight of the train hit it. You'd need some way to do a fairly detailed inspection of rails and ballast at speed.

        • by Locutus ( 9039 )
          That would be for progressive decay or other gradual failures and indeed tough to catch but what about vehicles stuck on tracks, wash outs or even that coyote behind the rock with an ACME magneto blasting detonator or worst. But then again they don't have automatic braking and still use humans because it's too expensive so no doubt any of what I described would be decades away from consideration.

          LoB
  • But if they catch on, imagine the driver-distraction issues from trying to pilot a UAV while you're on the road.

    Because the driver would have to pilot it, right? There is no such thing as an autonomous capability which would allow the drone to, say, fly up/ahead/somewhere for half a mile, take a bunch of pictures or use some sensors, transmit the result to the car computer which processes it and outputs a simple warning icon to the driver, right? Such things are completely unheard of.

    In the case of save-and-rescue, you would have a second person in the car piloting the drone, that's so obvious it's a "doh".

  • With Ford and software involved, it will probably feature a horribly hacked version of Windows 10, with added spyware, and little or no testing.

    Windows for accidents, anyone?

  • A drone launching car is useless, and at worst dangerous! You want a live traffic report, you've got a cell phone right? There you go. Just tie that info back to your dashboard with a HUD or standard LCD display. Traffic avoidance has been a solved problem for years now. Just pull up Google Maps or Apple Maps.

    As for the concept of drone launching from vehicles; law enforcement and the military would have better use with this concept, not the civilian sector.

    • by Max_W ( 812974 )

      Just pull up Google Maps or Apple Maps.

      I use OpenStreetMap.org. On a smart-phone application it is MAPS.ME app. It allows to download the map of a country, so it works without an access to Internet.

      • -_- The whole point of pulling up the map online is for real-time traffic conditions.

        • by Max_W ( 812974 )
          OK, got it. I had to drive recently in mountains where there was no Internet access on some roads.
  • Admit it, you all considered the implications of a high tech drone in place of a trunk monkey when reading the summary.

  • It would seem a textbook use for voice controls for vehicle delivery for remote operators. I could easily picture such a tool used for low cost scouting of wildfires: the delivery vehicle wouldn't even have to stop moving. This also sounds like a military or security project: a casual search reveals several Navy projects for just such moving vehicle based drone launches. While a small pickup mounted drone wouldn't have enough power to loft large weapons, it seems just the vehicle for delivering a few target

    • While a small pickup mounted drone wouldn't have enough power to loft large weapons,

      If you gave it folding wings, you could launch something the size of a predator from a pickup or SUV. That's big enough to carry hellfires, which are tank killers. That seems like a large weapon.

  • Currently DJI products use an IMU (a combination of a gyro and magnetometer), GPS and a barometer to control positioning and flight. Before the flight, conscious pilots assure the IMU is calibrated properly and that there's GPS lock. It's not currently possible to calibrate the IMU around ferrous environments, something required when changing flight locale.

      Using today's control systems to launch from a metal moving platform will have more issues than just the air flow.

    • Currently DJI products use an IMU (a combination of a gyro and magnetometer), GPS and a barometer to control positioning and flight. Before the flight, conscious pilots assure the IMU is calibrated properly and that there's GPS lock.

      You're not going to need to wait for GPS lock before you can launch, if someone is manually controlling the drone, because you're not going to return to home at the same point. Your "home" will be a moving target, so you don't have to wait for a GPS fix before arming. You also shouldn't have to precalibrate your sensors every time, either, if you program the magnetic declination into your drone. MultiWii can handle this method, can't DJI? It's frankly idiotic to expect the user to calibrate their mag sensor

  • by chrysrobyn ( 106763 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @09:06AM (#51247535)
    Wasn't this a feature in the 60 minute Viper commercials [wikipedia.org] in 1994? I seem to remember that among the absurdities it had the ability to launch a flying drone type thing from the trunk.
    • Wasn't this a feature in the 60 minute Viper commercials [wikipedia.org] in 1994? I seem to remember that among the absurdities it had the ability to launch a flying drone type thing from the trunk.

      Before that, it was a feature of the Mach Five [wikipedia.org] in the Speed Racer Anime from 1967. Except that was before the term "drone" was popular. I was called a "Go Homing Robot". But essentially was a drone.

  • How about just one drone operated by a qualified party and everyone gets access to the information?
  • Does nobody remember the Bond films?

    Everything's fine until some wacko uses a drone launched by car to attack America.

  • Great idea, no possibility that it could turn into a complete clusterfuck.

    No possibility that drones will crash into each other and fall from the sky.

    No possibility that drones will loose communication with their vehicle due to radio interference from other drones.

    No possibility that road rage fools will get in drone fights or interfere with other vehicles.

    No possibility that distracted drivers/pilots will get in accidents.

    No possibilities that emergency respondents will have problems with a bunch of a

  • We tossed this idea around in the office before. Stuck in traffic but can't see ahead? Launch the tethered drone - just straight up and high enough to see what is ahead. Power is no problem as it is tethered, and you can get high quality video. With the right design, maybe handle speeds of > 5mph as it goes into 'kite mode'.

    Just an idea. :-)

  • And maybe the drone will have a smaller drone to make sure the way is clear for the first drone, it's drones all the way up.

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