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    Flying cars over Europe by 2022

    Taxis that fly and giant drones that lift people and cargo. Cue the jokes, but the reality is we’re finally getting tantalizingly close to our flying cars.
    How close? Consider that there’s a major testbed in the works and by 2022 we’re going to see the largest deployment of air vehicles in urban environments ever. Called Air Mobility Urban – Large Experimental Demonstrations (AMU-LED for short), the project will be the largest undertaking of its kind with a consortium of 17 companies, organizations, and municipalities across the United States and Europe. The project takes final form next year with more than 100 hours of air vehicle test flights over cities in the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK.
    Urban Air Mobility is the catch-all phrase for a new kind of air travel and transport, one that combines state of the art propulsion and battery technologies with advances in robotics, machine vision, and AI. The result could be a fundamental rethinking of how we navigate in and around cities. 
    Companies such as ANRA Technologies, a drone software company, will participate in the project, which is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020, the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever with nearly €80 billion of funding deployed over the past seven years. The European Union has been pushing to harmonize rules pertaining to drones, an effort that will unlock significant commercial potential in the UAV and UAM sectors.
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    “ANRA Technologies will play a vital role in the AMU-LED project by providing its SmartSkies advanced airspace management and simulation software platforms, says Amit Ganjoo, Founder and CEO. “ANRA’s solutions and domain expertise will enable various simulated and live eVTOL operations in multiple large scale scenarios, use cases and applications in Europe and the UK.”
    Other participants include Airbus, AirHub, Altitude Angel, Boeing Research & Technology-Europe, Fada-Catec, Cranfield University, EHang, Enaire, Gemeente Amsterdam, Ineco, ITG, Jeppesen, NLR, Space53 and Tecnalia.
    The showcase is ambitions, with exercises involving different unmanned aerial systems aimed at demonstrating air taxi operations, cargo transport, delivery of goods and medical equipment, inspection of infrastructures, police surveillance, and emergency services support. For many companies, it’s a chance to showcase products and tools that could become lynchpins of a new mobility paradigm.

    “We have been developing airspace management technology since 2015, continually iterating and updating our software platform to ensure safe, efficient and secure operations for today’s Unmanned Aerial Systems and tomorrow’s Urban Air Mobility aircraft,” says Ganjoo. “Our SmartSkies platform was recently deployed for NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign and we will build upon that success with AMU-LED to develop robust simulations leading to live flights trials with our eVTOL partners.”
    The data collected from the tests will help regulatory agencies forge a path ahead to create a framework for unmanned flight in urban areas. Selected venues for the trials were announced in January and include Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Cranfield in the United Kingdom, and Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. More

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    What Secretary Pete's confirmation means for drone regulation

    Following now-Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s confirmation this week, the enterprise drone sector is abuzz over what the next four years may bring in terms of drone regulation. The FAA has taken a methodical and decidedly cautious approach to enterprise drone restrictions, but over the last few months, and on the heels of substantial testing and stakeholder outreach, the agency has begun to put in place a regulatory framework to guide more robust adoption of unmanned commercial drones over populated areas.
    Of course, many in the industry feel the agency can do more to encourage a sector that could be worth more than $43 billion globally over the next few years.
    Which brings us back to the man known affectionately for the past few years as Mayor Pete. The 39-year-old doesn’t have a track record in federal transportation regulation, but industry insiders are reading the tea leaves of his Navy Reserve experience and infrastructure oversight as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and there’s reasons to be hopeful.
    To find out why I reached out to Romeo Durscher, Vice President at drone software company Auterion, for insights. One of the drone industry’s top executives and a highly experienced leader in aerospace and unmanned aerial systems, Durscher joined Auterion from DJI, where he held the role of Senior Director of Public Safety Integration. During Romeo’s six years at DJI he built the Public Safety vertical and has become a well known and respected thought leader in the space. His opinions here are his own, but they give good context to and insight on sentiment within the sector. 
    GN: Why is this a critical moment to be paying attention to the regulatory environment surrounding commercial drones, and what’s the top line takeaway as we head into Secretary Buttigieg’s oversight of FAA?
    Romeo Durscher: The next few years are absolutely critical for the United States to meet the exploding demand for drones in government and business. What the COVID pandemic has taught us is that this technology is essential for public safety. Steps have already been taken by the U.S. government to enable the national drone industry and President Biden has previously expressed support for additional investment in essential US technology. Pete Buttigieg has a proven track record of embracing autonomous vehicle technology and understanding the benefits that it can offer; he was the driving force behind initiatives to position South Bend as a testbed for drones and wireless technology. We’re optimistic that, as Secretary of Transportation, he will set the tone for a positive, open environment where we can continue to expand upon the milestones achieved to date and accelerate the safe and valuable use of drones.
    GN: What do you think he brings to the table in terms of experience or outlook?

    Romeo Durscher: Pete Buttigieg brings a very fresh perspective. As a former intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve and former mayor, he brings a very broad understanding to the table, from understanding the needs of new technologies in both defense but also emergency services, to the challenges of regulatory complexities. His desire to enforce safety standards will also help the entire UAV industry.
    GN: Give us a snapshot of the FAA’s recent enterprise drone rule making. What have the trends been over the last couple years, and what kinds of reactions are we seeing within the industry?Romeo Durscher: Today drones represent the fastest-growing segment in the entire transportation sector, with over 1.7 million drone registrations in the USA and over 203,000 FAA-certified Remote Pilots.After the implementation of Part 107 to certify remote pilots for commercial operations, progress slowed down a little. In December 2020 the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Authority announced two very much anticipated rules for advanced safety and innovation in the USA. One the Remote Identification rules, so drones broadcast an “electronic license plate”, which then also allows for small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions.Addressing safety, security and privacy concerns, while also advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology is the current goal of the industry. This allows for more focused commercial drone use-cases while ensuring transparency, which continues to benefit public acceptance and support.  
    GN: Where is the focus likely to fall over the next four years as the U.S. seeks to adopt a sensible regulatory approach to enterprise drones?Romeo Durscher: The Remote ID broadcasting ruling allows for future regulatory adjustments, like properly opening up the sky for not only Tactical Beyond Visual Line of Sight (TBVLOS for First Responders) but true Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations (BVLOS)  for the entire commercial market. This will allow for again, a very new set of use-cases, from inspecting any sort of lines (power lines, gas pipelines, train tracks, etc.), cargo delivery, to emergency response operations during and after natural disasters. All of this is based on the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) model to accommodate these operations safely and efficiently. Lessons learned from today’s tests and pilot programs will support ongoing policy and technology advancements efforts to enable BVLOS operations. 
    GN: In your estimation, what are some potential mistakes that Secretary Buttigieg and the FAA should avoid (or remedy) going forward?
    Romeo Durscher: We have an opportunity to be bold and very forward-looking. Drones is a relatively young industry that has proven its value proposition many times. The Department of Transportation needs to continue working with all the various stakeholders and include them in the discussions, test phases and policy questions. Just because a larger stakeholder has a certain requirement and need, doesn’t mean it aligns with the general ideas and plans of the broader industry. It is essential that the FAA continues to bring in stakeholders from the commercial side, from within Government, but also everyday drone service providers to balance the needs properly. 
    This is also opening to talk about open standards and the way they can benefit everyone, instead of just large companies pushing their proprietary solutions. Regulators need to take this opportunity to work closely with industry players and push for solutions that aren’t proprietary, opening it up for everyone to participate in this space. We already see this in other adjacent software industries such as mobile phones and the cloud, where open standards and open source solutions opened things up and have proven to be scalable.
    GN: What could the U.S. drone paradigm look like in four years if everything went the way you hoped?Romeo Durscher: The entire drone industry could look very different in four to five years. As beneficial drone uses continue to make a positive impact on the perception of this technology, the return on investment will also become clearer and more tangible for operators and commercial entities. 
    Drones will continue to save lives, mitigate risks to many workers, including emergency response personnel, infrastructure inspectors, and construction workers, these aerial vehicles will help farmers with increased crop yields, smarter farm management, provide researchers and scientists with simpler methods to gather research data and provide students and educators with tools to inspire and build the next needed generation of drone operators, drone engineers and data analysts. 
    All of this means safer workplaces, reduction in on the job injuries or death, reduced overall costs and tax spending, improved efficiency, better research and tens of thousands of new jobs. More

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    Robot satellite swarms increase communication possibilities

    A NASA mission now underway after a January launch will be an experiment to maximize the effectiveness of CubeSats by demonstrating how they might track and communicate with each other. This is a crucial step toward development of swarming satellites, which could number in the thousands and work cooperatively to aid in communications, imaging, and forecasting tasks.
    “This mission is a precursor to more advanced swarming capabilities and autonomous formation flying,” explains Zac Manchester, an assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute and the mission’s principal investigator.
    For the past decade, interest in small satellites has led to a rethinking of how to apply satellite technology to a variety of challenges. The norm for many applications is no longer exquisitely expensive hardware but rather a new generation of tiny, relatively cheap satellites known as CubeSats.
    Read more: SpaceX launches off more Starlink satellites as part of its first ride-sharing space service
    But the way those small satellites function, while evolving, still bears much in common with traditional satellite technology: Most satellites now are individually controlled from the ground. The vision for the future involves not only autonomy but also coordination. Massive satellite swarms that function as a single entity would be able to take on some intriguing tasks. Possibilities include swarms of satellites around the moon to provide communications and navigation aid for lunar exploration, a job well-suited to an autonomous swarm.
    The new mission, dubbed V-R3x, will test three CubeSats, as well as underlying technologies that might make autonomous swarms possible.
    It’s notable that Manchester’s home base is the CMU Robotics Institute, a prestigious incubator of cutting edge robotics technology. As aspirations for space exploration, utilization, and colonization expand, the necessity for autonomous technologies, including robots, to help humans get a toe hold outside our home planet has become evident.

    “Spacecraft are robots, too,” says Manchester. “The satellites will wake up and do their thing autonomously,” he explained. “We mainly need to make sure that we get their data downloaded.” More

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    From robots to XR: How 5G is unleashing next-gen manufacturing

    Connectivity is the name of the game in manufacturing, and the game is getting a whole lot faster, as well as more reliable and secure. Technologies like 5G and edge computing are redefining connectivity in industrial settings like manufacturing and warehouses, bringing efficiency, reliability, and welcome security to the connected machines that make and ship the goods which drive the manufacturing economy.

    Speed is the obvious differentiator with the arrival (first in private networks but increasingly in public networks) of 5G, but it takes some unpacking to understand what kinds of functionality that speed can unlock. The edge computing capabilities and lower latency of 5G opens a host of new possibilities for manufacturers to connect and manage advanced robotics, AR/VR deployments, AI, and more robust IoT installations than previously possible.
    In other words, 5G will be the engine of digital transformation and a move toward greater automation in manufacturing, and the evolution has already begun. Here are some ways that a new generation of connectivity technologies will transform how products are made and distributed in the near future.
    Reliability & Coverage
    The last decade has seen the rise of autonomous mobile robots used in pick-and-place, materials handling, and light manufacturing. But the dream of a flexible, efficient manufacturing floor that hums along in the capable hands of an autonomous workforce has remained just that: a dream.
    Most industrial robots remain tethered, throttled not just by power constraints (which are rapidly falling thanks to battery advancements and wireless charging) but also by networking limitations. That’s changing rapidly.
    An Ericsson white paper entitled Cloud Robotics: 5G Paves the Way for Mass Market Automation makes a compelling case for how 5G will help networked robots transform manufacturing.

    Robots, robotics, and system automation have shifted from the floor of the research lab to becoming a crucial cost, time, and energy-saving element of modern industry. Smart robots and their control systems have enabled entire processes, like vehicle assembly, to be carried out automatically. By adding mobility to the mix, the possibilities to include system automation in almost any process in almost any industry increase dramatically. But there is a challenge. How do you build smart robotic systems that are affordable? The answer: cloud robotics enabled by 5G.

    The paper’s authors go on to explain that as robots become more sophisticated and smart — which is essential for mobile robots that are capable of adapting to new situations in real time — their processing needs and data collection requirements explode. It’s unrealistic to keep all that processing power onboard individual units for both technical and cost reasons. The cloud offers an elegant solution, permitting robots to outsource their processing and data management needs, but that creates another problem: building a reliable, low-latency network that handle all of in real time and without interruptions.

    Cloud robotics aims to change this by putting systems intelligence in the cloud and simplified robotics on the ground. Within this model, mobile technology plays the key enabler role — connecting the cloud-based system to the robots and controllers in a system. And, it is high-performance mobility that will provide the latency and bandwidth needed to support system stability and information exchange, which in turn facilitates the building of sophisticated, yet affordable, robotic systems. 
    Within mobile, radio technologies will provide the wanted level of performance, and so it is the capabilities of 4G and 5G radio systems that will enable 5G cloud robotics and facilitate the uptake of robotics in new applications.

    The upshot is both lowered cost (as key functionality for individual robots is offloaded to the cloud), increased reliability (as standby functions can be kept running in case a primary function fails, which would be impossible in a more bandwidth-constrained network) and more powerful computing and data sets with seamless connectivity to the cloud and the internet.
    Network Performance
    Mixed reality will be of enormous importance to Industry 4.0. For data captured by IoT and transmitted from robots on the shop floor to be useful, it will need to reach workers in real time in ways that allow them to take action. Mixed reality, and primarily augmented reality overlays, will become an increasingly useful tool for front-line industrial workers, enabling them to work efficiently and with unprecedented data and insights at their fingertips.
    It’s easy to see how specialists on the floor might benefit from having easy access to metadata about the advanced machinery they’re tasked with maintaining. Indeed, AR and VR deployments are no longer exotic on the shop floor, and enterprise augmented reality, in particular, is maturing quickly.
    But penetration of the technology in manufacturing and industrial environments has not kept pace with the hype. Why? Because meaningful deployments of mixed reality in manufacturing so far have been hampered by the sheer bandwidth required. With 5G, those constraints disappear. The technology offers higher bandwidth and lower latency compared to Wi-Fi, which relevant for applications that rely on video or access massive datasets in real time, such as AR/VR.
    Ericsson has been piloting an augmented reality troubleshooting model at  one of its factories in Estonia.

    One of the use cases being explored is AR-assisted factory maintenance. Here, 5G will provide the low latency required for sustained augmented image quality. The next-generation mobile technology will also offer high bandwidth for high-resolution image quality and connection density to guarantee that entire sites can stay connected without disruptions.
    “With 5G we can connect more things to each other and to humans,” [Mihkel] Tedremaa says, adding that increased connectivity will narrow the time gap between data-gathering and decision-making. The expected results: reduced downtime, increased output, greater safety, and in the longer term, a more sustainable manufacturing process.

    Edge computing

    Beyond AR/VR, the use of AI as a functional industrial management tool will rely on the network performance boosts unlocked by 5G. While machine learning and AI are currently deployed widely in industrial settings for repetitive tasks, higher-level production control is still in the hands of humans. In part that’s a reflection of the state of AI technology, which is in its relative infancy. However, more robust networking capabilities are essential to elevating AI beyond optimizing control of individual machines and into spheres like managing supply chains and scheduling production.
    According to IndustryWeek, “The 5G smart factory of the future will center on a fully connected experience. From massive device connectivity and innovative technology experiences to near real-time automation and network flexibility, 5G will help bring major advancements to the smart factory. And manufacturing companies could ultimately realize major benefits such as performance improvements, operational efficiencies, and increased safety.”
    Security
    Interestingly, as telecoms have battled over 5G rollouts for public use, industry has focused on developing private networks to support their Industry 4.0 digital transformation. According to an ABIResearch report, “Private cellular networks for industrial use have the potential to boost gross margin by 5% to 13% for factory and warehouse operations that fully embrace Industry 4.0.”
    That has enabled industrial-scale IoT paired with exceptionally low latency. It has also enabled more control, which is critical given how vulnerable IoT and sensor data has been to attacks of various kinds. According to the 2020 Unit 42 IoT Threat Report, 98% of all IoT traffic is unencrypted, exposing personal and confidential data on the network.
    Private networks coupled with a strong network security regime can help safeguard vital network communications.
    “A strong security posture portends successful digital transformation,” says Palo Alto Networks, a global IoT security leader. “Enterprises need to have constant real-time visibility and granular control of traffic passing through their networks. Only then can they detect and stop malicious activities and threats in 5G and build an effective and efficient scalable defense against IoT-based botnets.”
    What’s clear is that 5G and edge computing are bringing unprecedented changes to industrial settings, offering the reliability, performance, and security that enterprises need for Industry 4.0 digital transformation, including new levels of automation and IoT-driven data capture. As the enterprise adapts to the possibilities unlocked by 5G, we’re in for head-spinning technology adoption as we edge closer to the lights-out factory. More

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    Ecommerce boom driving new robot helpers

    Dave Lin
    There’s a new robot available to move pallets around fulfillment warehouses. That may not sound sexy, but the robot is symptomatic of ramped up development in the automation sector to meet demand created by ecommerce pressure.
    The robot from Fetch Robotics is called (a bit uninspiringly) PalletTransport1500, and its a workhorse of an autonomous mobile forklift designed to ferry cargo of up to 2504 pounds around warehouses, something that happens hundreds of times per day in busy ecommerce fulfillment centers. The robot utilizes warehouse execution system software by a firm called Honeywell Intelligrated to go about its autonomous business.
    And business is booming for automation providers targeting ecommerce and contactless delivery. Distribution centers are slammed with the pandemic-related ecommerce boom. The sector saw sales grow more than 30% in 2020, much steeper growth than could have been imagined at the close of 2019.
    “Even the most well-managed distribution centers are struggling to keep up with the ongoing growth of e-commerce, which is putting tremendous stress on facilities and warehouse associates to move goods in and out of facilities at record speed,” explains Fetch Chief Product Officer Stefan Nusser. “By combining Fetch’s new PalletTransport1500 with Honeywell Intelligrated’s Momentum WES, distribution and fulfillment centers will now be able to orchestrate every aspect of automated warehouse execution for maximum facility efficiency and safety.”
    The demand surge comes just as many ecommerce suppliers are acclimating to next-day fulfillment, a trend driven almost entirely by Amazon. With the pandemic introducing mew restrictions on work environments and ravaging workforces with illness, automation is viewed as a crucial relief valve.
    “To compete in the fast-paced, high-stakes world of e-commerce, modern distribution and fulfillment center operations are introducing increasing levels of automation. Too often these automated systems operate independently, performing very discrete tasks and processes,” says Thomas Evans, CTO of Honeywell Robotics. “This collaboration with Fetch to have a turnkey solution with Momentum gives those in the e-commerce industry a competitive advantage that will optimize productivity, increase operational safety, and provide significant return on investment.”
    In addition to reducing the need to hire to keep up, automated mobile robots, which have an excellent safety track record, have the benefit of potentially reducing workplace accidents. According to OSHA, there are 61,800 accidents involving forklifts in the U.S. each year, a staggering figure. 

    Fetch’s relationship with Honeywell is also symptomatic of larger coupling in the sector as one-time startups come of age and begin to sell themselves, acquire, or strategically partner in a trend of increasing consolidation around the maturing industry. Fetch’s latest robot builds on an ongoing partnership with Honeywell, which combines Honeywell’s software with Fetch’s existing suite of AMRs to support autonomous workflows for smaller payloads. More

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    Robot delivers the dough on college campuses

    Back in May of last year I wrote that the pandemic would set the tone for a new autonomous food and grocery delivery paradigm. With a funding announcement and news of expansion from one of the dominant players in the space, that’s very much coming to pass.
    Starship Technologies, which makes a six-wheel delivery robot and has innovated a novel adoption strategy targeting college campuses and other controlled environments, just announced $17M in new funding (bringing the company’s total funding to over $100M). Starship is also expanding its delivery services to two new campuses: UCLA and Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. 
    “Completing one million deliveries is a milestone that everyone at Starship is celebrating,” says Ahti Heinla, Co-founder and CEO of Starship Technologies. “We are delivering a fully commercial service operating 24-7 across five different countries now doing thousands of deliveries a day and millions of autonomous miles per year. This scale puts Starship on par with the biggest companies in the self-driving car market when it comes to miles travelled in the last year alone. We’re proud to be offering a crucial service that is now becoming part of everyday life for millions of people.”
    The pandemic has created an opportunity across the delivery ecosystem as consumer demand shifts more rapidly than expected toward online orders. Autonomous delivery services, which use either autonomous mobile robots or self-driving vehicles to execute deliveries, have been shifting their sales pitch to meet the moment, emphasizing the benefits of contactless delivery and touting as-a-service options that extend delivery capabilities to mom & pops. 
    Starship is probably the best known of the delivery robot developers. In addition to offering delivery services on college campuses, where regulatory requirements are easier to navigate than many municipalities, the company recently rolled out its robot food delivery service in Fairfax City, VA, touting the access it’s given residents to food and grocery delivery during the pandemic. The company has also offered free delivery for healthcare workers.
    Meanwhile, Starship has aggressively expanded on college campuses, where it can strike deals with administrators to deploy its delivery services on behalf of on-campus dining options. The campuses can tout their cutting edge technology adoption while Starship gets a powerful testbed for its service and technology as it builds a regulatory case for wider rollout in cities around the world.
    UCLA partnered with Starship to offer autonomous delivery from restaurants like Blaze Pizza, Bruin Buzz, Lu Valle, and Southern Lights. Bridgewater State University is  providing delivery from campus restaurants including Starbucks Cafe and Bears Den.

    The additional funding comes at a time of increasing interest in the autonomous delivery industry. Contactless delivery has proved to be one of the most reliable ways to protect vulnerable populations and enable social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is of particular importance on college campuses.
    “Over the last few years there has been a growing interest for food deliveries on campus, and our new partnership with Starship Technologies has come at the perfect time,” says Cindy Bolton, Associated Students UCLA Director of Food Operations. “The new service is an excellent alternative to traditional delivery, especially as we continue to confront the challenges of COVID-19. By using delivery robots, ASUCLA Restaurants can serve more essential workers and students on the UCLA campus.”
    The Starship service utilizes an iOS and Android app that enables users to choose food or drink items and then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. An interactive map tracks the robot’s position, and once it arrives customers unlock a secure compartment via the app. 
    It remains to be seen whether the Starship robots will pledge Greek or stay independent. More

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    Not so quiet takeoff: A big month for electric aviation

    As airlines reel from travel disruptions associated with the pandemic, electric aviation continues steadily gaining ground. Two enterprise announcements this month underscore the growing traction for electric aviation technology, including flying cars, which could bring new efficiencies to air travel for short-route flights.
    Morgan Stanley estimates sustainable air mobility will be a $1.5 trillion by 2040.

    The Points Guy

    The first announcement comes from California-based Archer, a company that bills itself as building the world’s first all-electric airline around vertical takeoff and landing vehicles to move people throughout the world’s cities. Archer and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have entered into a supply chain agreement to enable Archer to benefit from access to FCA’s low-cost supply logistics, as well as advanced composite material know-how and engineering experience.
    That access is critical in Archer’s bid to manufacture high-volume, composite, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. According to the company, the all-electric aircraft will be capable of traveling distances of up to 60 miles at 150 mph.
    “We’ve been hyper-focused on a customer-first approach to vehicle design and aircraft operations,” says Brett Adcock, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Archer. “Now we are working with a seasoned, industry-leading automotive partner to leverage cost benefits and experience that will allow Archer to produce thousands of aircraft reliably and affordably every single year.”
    Other players in the increasingly competitive space include Blade and Lilium.
    Archer and FCA, the parent company of brands like Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram, have already teamed up on cockpit design elements. One stumbling block for startups in aviation – electric or otherwise – has always been access to a capital-efficient supply chain, the kind that give established durable goods manufacturers a competitive edge. Building such a supply chain is a decades-long process, and manufacturing composites at scale is difficult under the best circumstances. Through this collaboration, Archer and FCA will work together to significantly decrease the cost of production while leveraging FCA’s manufacturing know-how against Archer’s startup nimbleness.

    “Electrification within the transportation sector, whether on roads or in the air is the future and with any new and rapidly developing technology, scale is important,” says Doug Ostermann, Vice President and Head of Global Business Development of FCA. “Our partnership with Archer has mutual benefits and will enable innovative, environmentally friendly transportation solutions to be brought to market at an accelerated pace.”
    That’s certainly the case for electric aviation company MagniX, which is developing technology to turn traditional aircraft into electric vehicles. The Washington State-based company recently announced it’s consolidating operations at a new 40,000-square-foot building to aid its mission of all-electric aviation for planes carrying up to 40 passengers.
    “In 2018, 75 percent of worldwide airline flights were 1,000 miles or less in range. With magniX’s new propulsion systems coupled with emerging battery capabilities, we see tremendous potential for electric aviation to transform this heavily trafficked ‘middle mile’ range,” Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, told us in 2019.
    MagniX will first retrofit small turbine-engine airplanes with its electric motors. The Pacific Northwest, home to aviation giant Boeing, has long been a hub of aviation innovation. Vancouver-based Harbour Air, North America’s largest seaplane airline, is working with MagniX on an all-electric fleet, a move that’s being watched a bellwether in the sector.
    The news from Archer and MagniX is indicative of the activity in electric aviation development, and this technology is likely to reach commercialization well within the coming decade. More

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    Flying robots get FAA approval in first for drone sector

    The FAA has authorized its first-ever approval to a company for use of automated drones without human operators on site. The move comes as the agency is putting new rules in place to evolve regulation of the broader enterprise drone paradigm in the U.S., which has lagged behind other developed nations in adopting industry-friendly commercial drone guidelines.
    Boston-based American Robotics, a developer of automated drone systems specializing in rugged environments, received the FAA approval last week, marking a first for the federal agency.
    Read also: Stunning Maps Visualize Drone Laws Around the World
    “Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition,” says Reese Mozer, CEO and co-founder of American Robotics. “We are proud to be the first company to meet the FAA’s comprehensive safety requirements, which had previously restricted the viability of drone use in the commercial sector.”
    Over the last few years, UAV firms have worked closely with the FAA to set safety parameters and demonstrate the working state of drone technology. American Robotics’ approval comes after a four-year testing program around its Scout line of UAV products. During recent tests the company put its UAV through up to ten automated missions per day.
    At the end of 2020, the FAA announced final rules for Unmanned Aircraft (UA) requiring Remote Identification (Remote ID) of drones and also allowing operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions. The rules were a step toward loosening tight restrictions on commercial drone use, although some in the sector took issue with the FAA’s decision on tracking, citing privacy reasons. Nevertheless, it’s clear the FAA is coming to terms with a big future for commercial drones. 
    “The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson of the December rulemaking decision. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

    Autonomy and the ability to fly without an operator could have huge repercussions for drone adoption in a variety of industries. An automated drone workflow for data capture applications in sectors like agriculture and environmental sciences, for example, opens up a huge low-cost data collection opportunity for an array of end users. It’s not far-fetched to envision mid- and even small-sized farmers using an automated drone to monitor soil and crop health in real time, for example, something that would be prohibitive with current FAA restrictions.
    “Our interest in American Robotics’ technology started with the desire to have a drone imagery solution that was reliable, scalable, and executed with minimal human resources,” explains Lance Ruppert, Director of Agronomy Marketing and Technology at Growmark, Inc., a leading U.S. grower cooperative. “This technology, along with the FAA approvals to operate it without humans on the ground, is key to making drones a widespread reality in our industry. This is a game changer.”
    It’s also a big moment for enterprise drone firms, which are preparing for a booming commercial drone market.
    “With this set of approvals, American Robotics can begin safely operating our automated Scout platform for the benefit of the energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and security market verticals, helping unlock the projected $100 billion commercial drone market,” says Mozer. More