Jun 27, 2017

Spies, herders, painters: the many unusual roles of drones

Erica Pandey, author of @Work

Keeping the elephants safe in South Africa. (Flickr)

Drones are proven for surveillance or delivery, but what's less widely known is their usefulness for herding elephants and seeing through walls.

Quick take: Businesses and non-profits are finding innovative ways to use drones to accomplish tasks that humans cannot do, and these developments have yielded benefits for environmental conservation, military strategy and more.

  • Conservation Drones is equipping Nepal and parts of Africa with low-cost aircraft that spot elephant poachers in the forest. (Scientific American)
  • Drones in Hawaii have found rare plant species by flying to precarious spots like steep cliffs. (The Verge)
  • Researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara have developed drones that see through walls, making them expert spies. As two drones navigate a closed structure, one emits a Wi-Fi signal, and the other picks it up. Together, they build a 3D image of the interior. (TechCrunch)
  • Drones found a till-then undiscovered ancient monument in Petra. It's the size of an Olympic swimming pool. (National Geographic)
  • Drones are herding elephants away from crops during harvest time in Tanzania. The pachyderms retreat when they spot the unmanned aircraft. (New Atlas)
  • An Italian project, "Paint By Drone," uses the aircraft to produce murals and designs on massive vertical surfaces. (CityLab)
  • In Australia, an engineer is developing drones that release germinated seeds to replace forests. She predicts the drones will be able to plant a billion trees a year to combat the climate effects of deforestation. (Australian Broadcasting Company)

Go deeper

The business of tear gas

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

U.S. forces yesterday used tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House gates, prior to a declared curfew, clearing a path for President Trump to visit a riot-damaged church for a photo opportunity.

The state of play: Two of the largest U.S. producers of tear gas are owned by private equity firms, but those firms have no interest in discussing their ownership.

Exclusive: Washington Post makes major move into local news

People entering the Washington Post building in D.C. in 2019. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post has signed all 30 of McClatchy's local news outlets to its Zeus Performance product, a software that gives sites better speed, ad view-ability and performance, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: By adding more local news outlets, The Post can start to build a local news ecosystem within its tech stack.

Biden: George Floyd's last words are "a wake-up call for our nation"

Former Vice President Joe Biden meets with clergy members and community activists during a visit to Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del. on June 1, 2020. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden will call George Floyd’s dying words “a wake-up call for our nation,” and criticize President Trump’s decision to unleash tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House, in a civil rights speech from Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Biden in the address will seek to draw a sharp contrast between himself and Trump, whose first remarks addressing nationwide unrest Monday highlighted law and order, extreme demonstrations of militarized “strength” and other blustery threats.