TIME Gadgets

This Origami Drone Folds Up and Fits in Your Pocket

It can unfold and deploy in half a second

For all those who are tired of dealing with those pesky cumbersome drones: finally, here’s one that can fold up and fit in your pocket.

The little, origami-inspired quadcopters can unfold and deploy themselves in half a second, Live Science reports.

Dario Floreano, who led the research on the drone, told Live Science, “You can take it out of the box, switch on the motor, and it’s ready to fly.”

Researchers say they could be used to take photographs and make contact with survivors in disaster zones.

Future models of these drones will be lighter with stronger arms that could withstand crashes, according to Mashable. The current prototype has been patented and will debut May 25 at a robotics conference in Seattle.

TIME Drones

Man Detained for Trying to Fly Drone Near White House

The White House was briefly placed on lockdown

A man was detained Thursday afternoon for allegedly attempting to fly a drone over the White House fence.

The unnamed person was held by the Secret Service, CNN reports, and a portion of the White House was briefly placed on lockdown.

President Obama is currently out of the White House at Camp David.

The incident comes just months after a quadcopter drone crashed into the White House lawn, causing a lockdown.

TIME National Security

New Push to Give Pentagon the Lead on Drone Strikes

In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.
Kirsty Wigglesworth—AP An unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan on Jan. 31, 2010

The military can talk about its activities, while the CIA usually cannot

(WASHINGTON) — The deaths of an Italian and an American in a covert CIA drone strike in Pakistan — and the rhetorical contortions required of the president when he informed the world — have breathed new urgency into a long-stalled plan to give the Pentagon primacy over targeted killing of terrorists overseas.

President Barack Obama announced two years ago that he wanted the armed forces, not a civilian intelligence agency, to be in charge of killing militants abroad who pose a threat to the United States. One reason he cited was transparency: The military can talk about its activities, while the CIA usually cannot.

But the effort soon slowed to a crawl amid bureaucratic rivalries, intelligence sharing dilemmas and congressional turf battles. The vast majority of drone strikes since Obama’s May 2013 speech have been carried out in Yemen and Pakistan by the CIA.

Now, administration officials and their allies in Congress want to get the transition moving again, U.S. officials said this week. The catalyst was Obama’s struggle last month to explain how two hostages held by al-Qaida, American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, were accidentally killed in an American drone missile attack in January. He had to do so without acknowledging that the CIA routinely conducts attacks in Pakistan, a “secret” in U.S. law but a known fact throughout the world.

The CIA also conducts targeted strikes in Yemen. The military does so in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Proponents of moving the drone program to the military worry that the CIA’s focus on hunting and killing has allowed its spying muscles to atrophy. And they argue that the military is able to discuss its operations, adding a layer of public accountability. On the other side are those who believe the CIA has become extremely proficient at targeted killing, which relies more on precise intelligence than traditional bombing.

Much of the debate about whether the CIA should exit the killing business is taking place behind the scenes. In public, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chairs the Armed Services Committee, says he intends to insert a provision in a defense bill requiring the military to take over the drone program. And last week, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, reiterated his previous support for the proposal.

“Our intelligence agencies should focus on their core mission” of espionage, Schiff told The Associated Press.

Schiff’s stance puts him at odds with other intelligence committee leaders, including another California Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has been explicit in arguing that the CIA should continue its targeted killing. Feinstein says the CIA is more judicious than the military when conducting drone strikes.

“The CIA takes its time,” Feinstein told the AP in February. “They are not hot dogs on a mission.”

In the military, Feinstein said, there are short tours of duty and therefore, “constant turnover. There is no turnover in the (CIA) program. They’re very careful about the identification of the individual. Sometimes the intelligence gathering goes on for months.”

A Pentagon spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Feinstein’s remarks.

Many other Intelligence Committee members agree with Feinstein, and they inserted a classified provision in a spending bill last year that blocked the Obama administration from spending money on its plan to move drone strikes away from the CIA.

There is also a matter of turf: Intelligence Committee members want to maintain their jurisdiction over a high impact counterterrorism program. They argue that their oversight of the CIA is better than the oversight conducted by the Armed Services committees over military strikes. Intelligence committee staffers watch video of each CIA strike, but staffers on the Armed Services committees in Congress do not watch videos of each military strike, say congressional aides who were not authorized to be quoted by name about a classified matter.

The congressional resistance appeared to put the transition on ice. But U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted discussing a classified program, said that while the planning slowed, it never stopped. And now it is picking up again.

The ultimate goal, the U.S. officials say, is an integrated model under which the CIA continues to hunt targets, but lets the military pull the trigger.

In theory that should be easy, since many of the CIA drone pilots are Air Force personnel who have been seconded to the agency. But in practice, there are serious impediments.

One is technology: The military and CIA use different systems, sensors and databases. It will take time to integrate them.

Another is intelligence sharing. Any military commander directing a lethal operation will want to fully understand the basis for it. But some of the intelligence that undergirds CIA drone strikes comes from the agency’s most sensitive sources, whose identities it would be loath to share with anyone.

A third is bureaucratic rivalry. Those in the military who collect intelligence and hunt for targets resist the notion that the CIA take over all that work and relegate those in uniform to merely pulling the trigger.

There is also the thorny problem of Pakistan, which after the 9/11 attacks made a deal with the George W. Bush administration to allow CIA drone strikes — but not U.S. military operations — on its territory. Pakistan prefers the CIA because its activities can be denied by both governments.

While it would be possible for the military to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan and simply never comment on them, many U.S. officials believe the Pakistanis would not tolerate it.

Additionally, the U.S. often is reluctant to alert Pakistan ahead of a strike, for fear that elements of the government will tip off the targets.

TIME apps

This App Will Tell You Where It’s Legal to Fly a Drone

Bundeswehr Holds Media Day
Philipp Guelland—Getty Images A small surveillance drone flies during the annual military exercises held for the media at the Bergen military training grounds on October 2, 2013 near Munster, Germany.

FAA to release B4UFLY app for drone hobbyists this summer

A new smartphone app will tell drone enthusiasts whether they’re cleared for takeoff, sparing them the trouble of interpreting a thicket of regulations on no-fly zones, the Federal Aviation Administration announced.

The app, called B4UFLY, will give hobbyists a simple “yea” or “nay” based on their location. “It only takes a few taps to find out if you’re cleared to fly,” FAA’s Michael Huerta said in a public announcement of the new app.

“We need to make sure hobbyists and modelers know where it’s okay to fly and where it isn’t okay to fly, because there can be very real consequences if you don’t,” Huerta added. “The incident on the White House lawn earlier this year is a good example,” Huerta continued, referring to a drone enthusiast who mistakenly crashed a quad copter within the White House’s secured compound (a definite “nay” for the B4UFLY app).

B4UFLY will release to 1,000 beta testers on Apple devices this summer, with an Android version slated for later development.

TIME Drones

Watch a Drone Vandalize a Kendall Jenner Billboard in New York City

It had some help from graffiti artist KATSU

Drones have been tracking stray dogs in Houston, flying onto the White House lawn and now: finding their creative voice.

Early on Wednesday, a graffiti artist named KATSU piloted a hacked Phantom drone to paint red lines across a massive billboard of model Kendall Jenner’s face, WIRED reports, supposedly marking the first time a drone has been used for graffiti in such a way.

“It turned out surprisingly well,” KATSU told WIRED. “It’s exciting to see its first potential use as a device for vandalism.”

[WIRED]

TIME Innovation

Social Justice and the Cellphone Camera

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Technology’s greatest gift to social justice is the mobile phone camera.

By Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic

2. How did America fall so far behind on basic scientific research?

By Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times

3. The U.S. needs a drone oversight board.

By David Medine and Eliza Sweren-Becker in Defense One

4. Here’s how citizen scientists discovered five new supernovas.

By Calla Cofield in Space.com

5. U.S. CEOs are eager to do business in Iran — but they’re not alone.

By Barbara Slavin in Al-Monitor

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

What Happens After Assad

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Assad might be on his way out. But things will get worse before they get better.

By Walter Russell Mead in the American Interest

2. You could rent a Tesla battery to power your house during a blackout.

By Benjamin Preston in the Guardian

3. It’s really going to happen: A Greek exit from the Euro is almost inevitable.

By the Economist

4. Inmates are having burner phones and marijuana delivered by drones.

By Michael S. Schmidt in the New York Times

5. Can we reinvent elite education at half the cost?

By Jeff Selingo at LinkedIn

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Amazon Gets Permission to Test Its Delivery Drones

Amazone Drone Delivery
Amazon/AP Amazon's 'Prime Air' unmanned aircraft project prototype.

The FAA allowed the company to test a newer prototype

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has once again granted Amazon permission to test drones for commercial use, this time expediting the request.

The company had previously received the go-ahead in March, but it argued since six months had passed since that request, the prototype in question had gone out date. They submitted a new request with an updated prototype, which was approved in less than a month, Reuters reports.

The FAA says Amazon can test drones for delivery as long as it limits altitude to 400 feet and speed to 100 miles per hour. Eventually, the web retailer hopes to use commercial drones to deliver packages to customers at a distance of 10 miles or more.

[Reuters]

TIME technology

Here’s Why Asparagus Is Yet Another Thing We Should Not Deliver by Drone

Spoiler alert: Explosions

In the not-so-distant future, your dinner will probably be delivered straight to the window of your fifth floor apartment via drone.

Amazon is fighting with the FAA for the ability to test drone grocery deliveries, but drones have also been used less formally to delivery everything from burritos to pizza to champagne to… asparagus.

According to Dutch News, restauranteur Ronald Peijnenburg decided to celebrate asparagus season by using a drone to deliver the vegetable from the countryside to his Michelin-starred Netherlands restaurant. (He had previously delivered asparagus via Formula 1 cars and hot air balloons). But a video chronicling his attempted delivery shows a con of drones: Sometimes they crash and burn.

Between this and that one time a promotional drone in a TGI Friday’s accidentally lost control and cut off the tip of someone’s nose, can we maybe agree drones and the restaurant industry might not be a great fit?

TIME Gadgets

This Is What It’s Like to Fly the World’s Best Personal Drone

Meet the DJI Phantom 3

Chinese drones have been spotted over American parks, beaches, cities, and even on the White House lawn. But they’re not of the military variety. Instead, the backpack-sized, camera-equipped aircraft, made by Shenzhen-based startup DJI, are being flown mostly by hobbyists.

The aerial videos taken from the company’s drones have often gone viral, helping DJI build brand recognition. DJI is now the top small drone maker in the U.S., according to Eric Cheng, the firm’s director of aerial imaging. Now, DJI is launching a new model, the Phantom 3, which will ship in the next few weeks. It will be available in in two varieties: The $999 Advanced, which sports a 1080p HD camera, and the $1,259 Professional, which upgrades the optics to 4K.

Notably, they will be the first drones in DJI’s entry-level Phantom lineup to lack an option without a pre-installed camera. While Cheng says having a DJI-made camera on board the Phantom 3 makes for a more integrated and thus better product, it’s also a shot at GoPro, whose action cameras are often used by drone hobbyists and which is said to be working on drones of its own.

The Phantom 3 will also serve as a cheaper alternative to the alien-looking Inspire 1, a $3,399, dual-remote drone aimed squarely at film professionals with big budgets for aerial work. The new DJI drones will compete with rival Parrot’s $499 Bebop and 3D Robotics’ $1350 X8+, though the latter company is teasing a product announcement for next week.

Read more: What happens when drones return home?

TIME met with Cheng and drone photographer Steve Cohen on a breezy April afternoon at a small field just off New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway to test the company’s newest drone. The new Phantom makes several improvements over its predecessor, including an optional higher-resolution camera and technology that allows pilots to broadcast images the drone captures live over YouTube.

The Phantom 3 connects with multiple global positioning satellites and uses ultrasonic sensors to take off, hover, and land with a simple swipe of a selector on an iPad app that functions as a remote control. With some practice, it’s also highly maneuverable—Cheng managed to spell out this magazine’s name in a flight pattern before we arrived, though we preferred to stick with a flight plan that more closely resembled this magazine’s shape.

After TIME logged a few minutes with the Phantom 3, we handed it over to Cohen, who runs a New York metro area drone hobbyist group that has some 1,200 members. Cohen later gave the new aircraft a big thumbs-up. “The level of innovation and performance cannot currently be beat,” said Cohen of DJI’s drones in a follow-up email.

Whether or not DJI keeps on growing will depend in part on its ability to convince more people they need a drone of their own. For hardcore hobbyists and photographers like Cohen, the company pithes the device as a way to get footage for which you’d otherwise need a helicopter. “Most photographers I know are already starting to think of this as a camera,” says Cheng of DJI’s drones.

But the reasons a more mainstream consumer would buy a drone are less clear: Are they the new GoPro action camera, following and recording you shredding down the ski slopes? The new Selfie Stick, perhaps, to take amazing images of yourself and your crew? Or are they really just for professionals only?

These questions remain to be answered. Cheng acknowledges that more competition is coming. “For sure there will be competitors,” says Cheng. But when asked if there’s any particularly threatening rivals—GoPro, Parrot, 3D Robotics—he demurs. “I can’t think of any.”

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