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Google’s Secret High-Speed Internet Drone Project

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Whenever a tech giant gobbles up another company, there’s always tons of speculation about what the tech giant has up its sleeves, and how the acquired company’s expertise will find its way into an actual product.

So when Google acquired high-altitude drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace in 2014, the tech world blew up with Google’s big plans of sending Internet drones to space. Those plans became much clearer today, following a Guardian report about another top secret Google project called SkyBender.

But let’s backtrack. To understand SkyBender it is imperative to understand Titan.

Titan

Titan has been known for its solar-powered super drones “Solara” which can function as atmospheric satellites. The unmanned aircraft can operate at 65,000ft (20 km) altitude about 50% higher than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. At this height, the drone operates for up to 5 years independently and uninterrupted by weather patterns.

A single Solara drone uses thousands of solar cells producing enough energy to keep it flying. Each drone is equipped with lots of sensors opening up a range of possible use cases including acting as GPS replacement satellites in case of terror attacks or to produce real-time Google Map images that are always fresh and available on-demand.

More interesting to Google are the drones’ high-speed millimeter wave technology to deliver Internet 40 times faster than 4G/LTE which is even faster than what might become 5G.  The problem of millimeter wave technology is its range as it spans only a short distance before fading out creating a unique challenge.

Project SkyBender

This is where Google’s new secret project “SkyBender” comes in. Project SkyBender could make Google a global Internet provider using Titan’s drone technology together with a new wave-spectrum completely different from today’s clogged cellphone spectrum.

Since last summer several high-tech drones have been built together with a “pilot optional” aircraft called Centaur and are now tested at Spaceport America located in the Jornada del Muerto desert in New Mexico.

spaceport

You might remember Virgin Galactic, the ambitious commercial space travel project of Virgin Airline founder Richard Branson which operates from Spaceport America. Google is currently renting a hanger from Virgin Galactic and pays the Spaceport America a monthly fee.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) licensed the testing of the new millimeter-wave drone-based technology until July 2016. It has yet to be seen where the project will evolve from there.

Before Google, the U.S. military had been testing a similar drone-based technology to provide high-speed connectivity for troops in remote areas.

This isn’t the company’s first foray into providing Internet to remote areas from above. Back in 2013, Google announced its Project Loon initiative that involves sending up hundreds if not thousands of Internet balloons into the stratosphere, bringing Internet to areas that were previously unconnected.

Who doesn’t dream of buffer-free Netflix anywhere on earth?

Drones

DJI launches new Mavic Air drone

It’s the size of a smartphone!

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DJI is at it again with its consumer quadcopters.

The Chinese company has launched the new Mavic Air and it fits right between the Mavic Pro and the smaller Spark. Think of the Spark’s size but with the folding arms of its predecessor.

DJI says the Mavic Air is lighter by 41 percent compared to its previous model but receives the entire gesture system of the Spark — something that attracts consumers. This means you can make it snap a photo, make it move to a different spot, and call it back to land by simple hand actions.

Using your hand to manipulate the drone has a range limit of almost 6 meters (19 feet). Connect a smartphone and it bumps up the range to 80 meters, but using a dedicated remote will increase that to 4km.

Just like the Mavic Pro, the Mavic Air has a 4K video resolution, 12-megapixel image sensor, and three-axis gimbal. It also has HDR, and low-light shooting to help you achieve better photos in general. DJI also threw in a new software algorithm that lets users stitch together 32-megapixel shots for panoramas and photo spheres.

DJI added 8GB of internal storage to the Mavic Air. There’s also a USB-C port which is a bump up from the Pro’s micro-USB, although battery life saw a downgrade as the new Air has a maximum flight time of 21 minutes. In real-life usage, that means around 16 minutes.

Don’t let it dishearten you, since position tracking, obstacle avoidance, and the ventilation system have all been improved according to DJI.

Finally, and unlike the Pro, it comes in different colors. The new Mavic Air will be available in white, black, or red. Pricing will start at US$ 799 which is a little more expensive than the Spark but more affordable than the Mavic Pro. Pre-orders start immediately and shipping will commence next week.

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CES 2018

Pocket drone AirSelfie2 takes selfies to new heights

Take fly photos! This pocket drone is made for selfie lovers

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In 2018, selfies are getting even better.

AirSelfie, the company behind last year’s pocket-sized selfie drone, is at it again. Let me refresh your memory:

Yes, more selfie drones are coming this year, and they’re even better.

Announced at CES 2018, the AirSelfie2 has significant improvements. The new and improved pocket drone owns a 12-megapixel camera as opposed to the original AirSelfie’s 5-megapixel shooter. It also comes with a longer battery life and bigger storage capacity that means more photos! According to their announcement, even the smartphone app will be upgraded with the new drone release. The best part? It will come in rose gold! (And three other colors, but we all know which color is cutest.)

This powerpacked drone is still teeny at around the size of a smartphone and weighs only a little over two ounces. It’s covered with an anodized aluminum casing which can, supposedly, withstand everyday modern life. The AirSelfie 2 can travel 60 feet from home base and is equipped with a vibration absorption system and an 85-degree field of view — those landscape #OOTDs will finally be doable by yourself!

The AirSelfie 2 will retail for US$ 300 and it will be available on airselfiecamera.com March of 2018.

MORE ON CES 2018: GadgetMatch LIVE coverage

SEE ALSO: Mystery Unboxing: Name that drone!

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Drones

8 underwater drones that you must check out

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Drones have become a regular sight in the sky and soon they’re going to be taking over the waterways. (more…)

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