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Facebook's Aqiula takes wing, Drones learn to hold formation in dense forests, Walkera's Voyager 4 superzoom, Amazon docking stations, drones to keep track of Alzheimer's patients, Massoud Hassani wants to use drones to rid the world of land mines, and if you're in Dallas tonight you might be having some BBQ coming in via drone. 

The Verge covers in detail the first flight of Facebook’s Aquila drone late last month. The goal was for the drone to take off, stabilize, and fly for 30 minutes. Aquila is at the heart of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to bring the internet to the entirety of the Earth’s 7 billion human inhabitants via drones. (The company expects major regulatory hurdles will have to be overcome before the plan can be put into action.) – VERGE

With their ability to fly below a forest canopy, drones could provide valuable interior 3D landscape surveys not possible by other methods – if only they could be trained to keep formation in such an unpredictable environment. Single drones are good at navigating tricky scenarios, but moving multiple synced drones has been difficult. Researchers from Shanghai and Oregon have collaborated on a method that enables a swarm of drones to find its way through a forest, using a “follow-the-leader” approach. – NEW SCIENTIST

Incidentally, it looks like one of those forest drones already has Tom Hanks on the run in the trailer for "Inferno," the upcoming third movie in the "Da Vinci Code" series. – YOUTUBE

Gizmag profiles Walkera’s new prosumer-grade superzoom Voyager 4 drone camera, declaring it can “spot you from a mile away.” This marks another step in the march towards practical drone filmmaking, as previous aerial drone cameras were generally outfitted with very wide-angle lenses that needed to get fairly close to capture detail. The Voyager 4 also reshuffles the deck for privacy concerns as it can, in the writer’s terms, “map every pimple on your backside from a few blocks away.” – GIZMAG

Despite a major customer service failure involving the UberEats lunch delivery service on Wednesday, the company still plans to use drones to deliver barbecue fixings to a “secret party” in Dallas tonight.  UberEats has partnered with prized bbq joint Pecan Lodge and tech startup Dialexa for the promotion. – KERA NEWS

In other drone BBQ-related news, an entertaining, slightly absurd internet video shows a man using a drone to cook a steak on an outdoor barbecue. – YOUTUBE

27-year-old Daniel Kelly has become the first UK resident to be convicted of using a drone to fly contraband into prisons. Kelly had used a remote-controlled drone to deliver payloads of tobacco and the psychoactive drug known as “spice” into Hertfordshire and Kent. – Eagle Radio UK

Amazon has been awarded a patent for drone “docking stations” to be placed at the top of lampposts and church steeples. The company is in the midst of battling it out with regulators after the FAA’s recent issuance of new rules that “essentially killed off” Amazon’s plans to begin regularly delivering packages via drone. – CNBC

Designer Massoud Hassani has started a new Kickstarter campaign with a goal of using his autonomous Mine Kafon drones (MKDs) to rid the world of land mines in 10 years. – DIGITALTRENDS

The Alzheimer’s Outreach Group had donated a drone to the sheriff’s department of Dallas County, Alabama. It marks the first contribution of “The Drone Project,” which the Selma-based AOG began last November. The group hopes to eventually have a fleet of dedicated drones in the air to seek out Alzheimer’s patients who have wandered from home. – VOCATIV

Two researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have recently completed a three-day drone survey of critically endangered North American right whales, of which fewer than 500 individuals remain. Launched from a boat on Cape Cod Bay, the drones set about identifying individual whales, as well as collecting photogrammetry studies, which allows NOAA to note the animals’ body length against a background of open sea. – TREEHUGGER

Readers on the drones subreddit discuss 18-year-old George Matus' new "Teal" concept, a consumer drone that can fly 85 miles and hour and shoot 4K video. Eggmont decalres it "cool but not relevant" and says "FPS is far more valauble than res at those speeds."; fabricator01 says "Sooo, besides the display model, I'd say a production run of three or four should about cover demand."; User ve_ replies "there definitely is a market for this. i mean people buy the DJI, and this is definitely more edgy :) imho it either flops, or is the next big hype of all apple lovers XD"; Dropping a final bon mot, fabricator1 says "I can't argue with the last sentence" and drops the mic. 

Elsewhere on the subreddit, members discuss the recent case where a federal judge ordered a Connecticut father and son to testify under oath and give sworn depositions regarding a YouTube video showing their drones firing guns and running flamethrowers to cook a holiday turkey. Lonely_Kobold says "So, roasting a turkey with one equals reckless, while a soda commercial featuring "drone hunting" using a pool net and dirtbikes is not reckless?" Matthew_McHiniNini adds, "Depending on the state a personal flamethrower device is illegal. So they could get them with that." Nabeshin82 writes, "I mean, from a common sense perspective, how did these guys not see the problem with arming a UAV? It's generally really easy to find existing laws that cover new stupidity while the real laws and regulations are created."

Hello, readers and drone enthusiasts! We're finding this world of drone reportage endlessly fascinating because of the variety of issues the topic toucnes on.  And we love getting the inside word from you passionate fans.  So here's today's Biq Quesion: 

If the number of consumer and enterprise drones grew by 100x in the next 24 months, what would be the biggest challenges and impacts? How can the public best prepare for a shift like that?

As always, we look forward to all your responses and will read every single one.  And we'll publish a selection of the most interesting takes we get in next Tuesday's "From the Mailbag" section. 


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