Gadgets, websites, games and computer industry news. Click travels to Rwanda to see how drones are being used to potentially save lives in rural areas.
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Now on BBC News - Click.
This week, can this drone save a life?
Can an app save your carpet?
And will it be curtains for this flying lampshade?
You could be forgiven for thinking that all this talk of drones
has just been an excuse to make elaborate adverts
for pizza deliveries!
for pizza companies!
Certainly though, if you believe the hype, it won't be long before
drones are doing a lot more than just dropping off
piping hot margaritas.
Amazon's Prime Air, for example, promises to one day deliver
packages to customers within 30 minutes or less.
That's if they can make machines safe and convince government
and regulators that is a good idea.
Despite the promise, so far, drones have pretty much been
constrained to wacky research project, and wacky racecourses.
It feels to me that we are still waiting to see them come
out of the labs and into the wild to
make a real difference.
So, where do you think we are going to go for
this next drone story?
No, MIT, Boston?
No, Dan Simmons is in Rwanda.
This drone has beaten the biggest names in tech and retail to become
the world's first to offer an ongoing commercial delivery
service that works.
I hung out with the guys in the run-up to the launch,
and learnt some of the secrets of how they did it.
First, assemble a crack squad.
Don't let the West Coast looks fool you: these guys have
engineered stuff for SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Google.
They operate like the marines in freshers week.
Yes, there will be mishaps, but they are focused.
Second, don't use a chopper, quad copter or anything else that
resembles a mobile blender.
Fixed wing goes further, faster and is more of a bust.
Right now we have a range of 150 kilometres, round-trip,
it allows us to carry a bigger payload and it allows us to fly
in all weather conditions.
So we can fly in up to very high winds.
And we can also fly in the rain.
To get it off the ground, an elastic rubber cord is wound up
and then catapults the drone, from zero to 80 kmph,
in under one second.
Once it's clear, two propellers click in, taking it up
to a cruising speed of 100 kmph.
Now, the pilot is the on-board computer.
Following it is a very precise GPS called an RTK GTS.
It gives us precision up to several centimetres, so every time a plane
is going out for a mission, it gets a new set of ST cards
with a new mission and then additionally, these ST cards become
the black box of the vehicle, things like airspeed,
ground speed, temperature of internal components,
tracking errors, so if we are off a metre or two in one direction,
all things we can feed back into the engineering crosses.
all things we can feed back into the engineering process.
If you are off one metre or two in one direction,
is it that precise?
Yes, that is our out about.
This is a tennis ball.
Have you got a fancy name for it?
You called it a tennis ball.
It is the preflight handle (!) Preflight handle impact buffer,
we can call it that!
Next trick, downland the thing to drop off the package,
just dropped off the package.
When over its target, these barn doors open
and four rubber bands ping the cargo out of the hold,
which hopefully has one of these attached.
Next up, do lots of testing.
Follow the plane...
I will be behind the drop...
That was supposed to, that was supposed to drop dead then,
That was supposed to, that was supposed to drop it then,
as it went over, but something happened and it hasn't worked.
So we might try another time.
Zip dips to make the drop, but will not do so if it
is of course.
is off course.
It will try ten times before it aborts the mission and goes home.
This is the package that delivers, it comes down on what was not
a brilliantly operational parachute, I guess, looks like it
has come apart.
This is biodegradable, one-time use.
They don't need to worry about the environmental impact
of using this.
Inside is the life-saving package.
This is the blood that will be used by surgeons,
possibly to save somebody's life, and as you can see,
it is extremely well wrapped up.
I expect when we open it, it will be perfectly usable.
You have a unique set of challenges in terms of blood
and delivering other kinds of medical products,
Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills,
it can be a hard place to get around.
We realised it was a place where we could move quickly and do
something for the first time in the world, but also a place
where the need was very high for something like Zip.
While pizza delivery schemes may struggle to justify
the cost of using drones, saving the lives of mothers
after childbirth, or road accident victims, is something worth paying
So you actually move the patient, sometimes,
rather than actually get the blood to the patient, because it
Now, the doctor just need to send a text message.
The government pays asked for each and every flight we do
but the really cool thing is that these flights are actually
about equal or a little less expensive than the way
they were currently doing these deliveries,
using motorcycles, or trucks.
It's always useful to get yourself a friendly government
that wants to help.
Rwanda has form, it had fibre broadband ten years ago,
was first in Africa to 4G, and the biggest investor
in one laptop per child.
This is innovation.
We cannot figure out all of the right answers before we start.
At the same time, we look at what is at stake,
it is people's lives at stake.
Why have you made different rules for this project?
I don't think we have made rules for this project,
we made rules for an industry.
And what we are setting up for is really an environment
which will allow many drones companies to come and
operate on a commercial basis, even experiment.
Zips fly below passenger plane airspace, and must
report their position over the cell network, back to the nest and two
air traffic control.
back to the nest and to air traffic control.
Nosing around alongside, international courier firm UPS.
Might they use Zips?
That first drone taking off today was actually a game changer.
A game changer for the global logistics industry and a game
changer for our humanitarian activities around the world.
What happens if it hits a bird?
We have never hit a bird, it is not super quiet,
so birds hear it coming, and generally, a bird's life
strategy is to stay away from birds that are bigger than it!
So it is not a problem we have ever come in contact with.
But, if we were to lose one motor, our vehicle is designed to be able
to fly home on a single motor.
And the final tip for drone delivery success, bring it home safely.
Zipline plucks its drones from the sky, like they are landing
on an aircraft carrier.
The wire goes up, and the hook at the back of the zip catches...
Bringing it down safely.
Together with local residents, I looked on, and could not help
but admire what this team has achieved,
but I also had some concerns.
The system relies on one team from the US, so expansion
to an ever-increasing waiting list of African countries
is likely to be slow.
The drop needs an open but secure target area.
This is not a to-the-door solution.
We can have a plane ready to fly in less than five minutes.
And given drones are more information for dropping munitions,
seeing the military take an interest made me feel uneasy.
Although the technology minister told me that is not the plan.
What's happened here is a milestone, a commercially viable drone delivery
service has been talked about for years, now finally,
this crack squad have made the drop.
Now, I can't compete with the life-saving drones
in Rwanda, but I can show you a use for drones which may help to make
them all a bit safer.
And it looks spectacular, too.
This is Cirque du Soleil's Broadway show, Paramour,
the stars of that show are arguably not the performers but the flying
This is not just a one off film, remember, this is a live,
If you make a video, you have the luxury of
If you make a video, you have the luxury of
doing it a hundred times and choosing the best shot.
If you are doing something on Broadway, it is running
eight times a week, 2000 people each time.
It needs to work every single time.
So many things on a drone can fail, a battery could overheat,
communication could be lost, and for those reasons,
Paramour drones, seen here in their giant rehearsal space
in Zurich, have built in redundancy, two batteries,
two flight computers.
But these quadcopters are even safer than that, they can still stay
stable, and land safely, even if they use a propeller.
Something that we will now demonstrate in a most
spectacular and unnecessarily violent manner!
You didn't see me flinch, you were
looking at the other thing, weren't you,
see me run for cover!
Do I need to tell you never to try this, ever?
There is a fraction of a second, where I lose
control of my bodily functions...
Just a fraction.
When I said they can stay stable,
I did mean after what I will call
the initial evacuation...
It's only because of the special control
software developed here, that these drones can
stay in control when a
blade is stopped.
The key ingredient to being able to fly on less than
four propellers is spinning.
So any flying machine that has had a failure and is now flying on less
than four propellers will be spinning if
it is trying to stay in one spot.
No more gentle aerial photography, once you have lost a
blade, but the thing can land safely.
The most impressive thing about this recovery from disaster is
that the drones need no special equipment to survive a lost prop.
The capability of a quadcopter to
fly on less than four propellers, is
pure software feature.
All standard quadcopters have all the sensors and actuators
that they need for it.
There is no good reason to have a drone that falls out of
the sky just because one of the propellers has failed.
the sky just because one of the propellers has failed.
In fact, a drone can fly under control, albeit
spinning, if it goes down to not just three
blades but even down to two.
So, could a drone fly on just one?
Here's your answer.
And no lifting surfaces, no other actuators, it is
sustained aloft and controlling itself with only one propeller.
This is really to push the boundary of
what you can do with flying machines.
We ask ourselves a simple question, what is
the minimum number of actuators that you need to fly?
We were surprised when the answer was one, we
discovered this theoretically, and then we set out to build a
Could a quad copter that we have today fly with one
propeller, if it was using your algorithm?
It could, if it was powerful enough.
The limit then becomes, does one propeller have
enough thrust to keep the quad copter aloft?
You would never design...
It would not be a good design if you designed a quad with
five or six times excess thrust.
It may not be practical, but that is what I like
about what I have heard, he and his students
in ETH in Zurich are
learning huge amounts about balance and control systems, by pushing
their machines beyond what we would normally want them to do.
Balancing a stick on your head, or drone
tennis, aren't probably top of the list, but this
is all about reacting quickly to rapid changes,
re-sampling the situation, re-calculating what to do, 50 times
And that leads to a drone that can recover from a massive
shock, like a strong gust of wind, and impact,
or, indeed, the loss of a propeller.
I can also see uses for a drone that can fly like a
plane or a helicopter.
And one that can fly any way up.
But, Raph is unashamedly theoretical.
I look at it from what is possible.
Whenever you push the boundary of what
something can do, especially autonomous systems, then naturally,
people see that and go, you could use this for that!
I have seen that happen only a few times.
You are the archetypal solution looking for a problem.
But I'm not looking for a problem, and
the reason is, that, that serves a huge need in our society,
to explore what is possible, to stimulate our
imagination on what can be done.
And what can be done is not just limited to drones.
Sensors, gyroscopes and self balancing
systems could be used to control nonflying objects, too.
One day, a descendant of the QB here may be a
robot, which balances and walks its way across
the surface of another planet.
As for the flying lampshades, they had better watch
out, there is already something that wants to upstage them.
Certainly a better circus act than this pair of
If you've ever felt that you've made a mistake when it comes to
decorating or furnishing your home, then you are certainly not alone, so
here are a few things that may be able to help in future.
This app has it planned from the ground up,
using augmented reality to change the appearance of your flooring.
Through a combination of this Windows tablet and depth sensing
camera, the app can interpret using its algorithm is exactly how far
away the floor is and which area is floor.
Retailers will be able to
provide this setup as part of their service from later this year.
I really like this function, you can change the direction of it.
You can use this app, moving, and it will
create the floor, in real-time, wherever
you are moving to, so the
carpet is disappearing and as I walk into the
kitchen, it has changed the
kitchen tiles, this does seem to be a room that the tiles make sense in.
Not bad, now in some places, the images are a little bit
fuzzy around the edges, that is all dependent on
how good the light is in a room.
The company's technology means there is
no need to tell the app where the ground is and it is already
being used by retailers to allow customers
to virtually place furniture.
AR being used to visualise items with a
smartphone or tablet before buying them is nothing new, it is just
It has had over 2 million downloads, and will soon be
available using Google Tango, the project we recently showed you on
Click, where these functions will all be packed into an albeit chunky
The depth sensing and motion tracking that the
software and hardware in this device are capable of means you can really
move around and see the furniture placed anywhere you want it to go,
and You can also see the dimensions, which should be pretty
and you can also see the dimensions, which should be pretty accurate.
It is quite incredible actually, the level of detail, and
the reflection that you get, which is not the real reflection
but it is the impression of it being a reflection.
Of course, measurements being precise is pretty pivotal, and
that is where this smart tape measure can help.
The Bagel, as it's known, which isn't for lunch, is
currently in crowdfunding, and aims to measure any shape or size
through its three different modes.
String, Wheel or Remote, storing the data
along with voice memos that you record on the go.
Yet when it comes to the decor of the future,
what it actually looks like could become less important.
In the future, the technology will really help people
to live the lives they want.
They might not have very much money in
the bank, and they can live in a horrible little shop, but with
the bank, and they can live in a horrible little plot, but with
augmented reality, and enhanced intelligence, they can have a
fantastic palatial environment which looks exactly like where
they would love to live.
You might have one contact lens in each eye just looks
like a normal contact lens, that could be producing an image straight
onto your retina.
The important thing though is that when it comes
to the physical things, you still have do have a comfy seat.
to the physical things, you still have to have a comfy seat.
The comfy seat is the only thing that you
actually have to have in your living room.
When it comes to finding that
comfortable seat, you may need to venture to an actual, real life
Presuming they still exist(!)
And finally, this.
Meet holographic Thom Yorke.
This ethereal visitor makes an appearance in Mark
Pritchard's latest track, beautiful people.
Pritchard's latest track, Beautiful People.
Director Michal Marczak tells us what technology
technology he's been using to create this haunting,
rather alien vision.
What I like about the track is that it was really melancholic.
And evoked feelings of sadness.
But the vocals of Thom Yorke, they kind of exude
a kind of sadness but
at the same time something positive comes out of them.
Like a sense of wonder.
What could aliens in the future do to
simulate a face?
We thought it would be cool to have this utility
With thousands of one or two atom particles which can assemble into
any form or shape, with a swarm intelligence.
So we kind of thought that we would do these little
metallic, hundreds of thousands of metallic particles, that can
assemble into a face.
We hacked a Kinect, that is what we used to
scan Thom's face, it is infrared, not very precise, so we had
to develop a technique to mellow it all out, it does not handle
spikes, which are associated with the Kinect.
And then to turn that into a strong mesh, which we can
then simulate with particle simulation.
To get it right, it was a couple of days of work.
It is amazing that we have this type of technology and I
can't wait until it is faster!
I can't wait for that moment where you
can have the camera, there, and augmented reality of what I am
getting, and I'm really playing the visual effects of reality,
and so this particle selection is reflecting
off the light at this moment,
we are adding so
much realism to this thing.
That is the amazing next step.
And that is it for this week.
You can follow us on Twitter throughout the week for loads
of backstage photos and fun.
Thank you very much for watching, see you soon.