Drone Cameras: Set to Explode?

A Parrot Quadcopter (Source: Amazon)

A Parrot Quadcopter (Source: Amazon)

Drones with cameras, also known as quadcopters or miniature unmanned aerial vehicles, have been around for years, and are steadily growing in popularity.  There are a number of leading quadcopter makers, including DJI, Parrot, Hubsan, and Walkera, which makes a drone that can be used with a GoPro camera.  The sales of drones are increasing amongst consumers who enjoy flying them, just for fun and to gain a better perspective on sporting events or outdoor adventures, such as the person catching the quadcopter in this image taken at the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Quadcopter at Head of the Charles Regatta (Arnold Reinhold)

Quadcopter at Head of the Charles Regatta (Arnold Reinhold)

However, The National Park Service (NPS) has banned drones in all national parks in the United States, citing a negative experience for visitors.  And along similar lines, a recent article in Popular Science outlined a newly launched, slightly controversial solution for stopping unwanted drones.

Camera drones can videotape their surroundings, to the delight of users, but to the dismay of certain people and organizations who would like to keep their privacy intact. Recognizing an opportunity, Rapere, the company that makes the “intercept drone,” has designed a quadcopter with 12 fast cameras that help it identify other flying objects to attack. The “intercept drone” then drops a tangle line onto the offending UAV’s rotors, bringing it down.

Rapere "Intercept" Drone

Rapere “Intercept Drone”

It’s not clear whether this product would be legal, or if it will even be sold, but it does seem to be getting attention for its unique solution to a new challenge. If Rapere does go into mass production, that bodes well for the production of camera modules, which will be needed in vast quantities at that point, ostensibly to both man the interceptor drones and to fill orders for the replacing the drones that they brought down.

Consumer Electronics Show Debuts Camera-Centric Tech

CES Las Vegas LogoIn Las Vegas this week, the International Consumer Electronics Show is taking place, introducing attendees to the most cutting-edge technologies well before they are available to the general public.  This year, the most notable camera-centered products include security cameras with facial recognition and user-friendly medical cameras.

Netatmo Security Camera

Several sources, including CNET and Gizmodo, have published stories on Netatmo’s new security camera with facial recognition.  Its sophisticated software can recognize family members who are at home and provide a video feed that can be viewed remotely, should there be an intruder who is not recognized.

Camera for phone from CellscopeA startup called CellScope exhibiting at the show was featured on NPR; it has built a small ear probe that clips onto the top of your iPhone camera. Instead of rushing to the emergency room, this product allows you to stream footage from inside the ear to an app, so the images can then be examined by a doctor.

Finally, there were two exciting announcements from the show, first that Omnivision and Inuitive Ltd. have created a partnership to develop a reference design for building compact modules that enable 3D imaging in consumer electronics, which will enable advanced features such as augmented reality, 3D scanning, and post processing photography. Second, Jabil Circuit and Pelican Imaging also announced a partnership, this one to develop a high-resolution array camera module using the most advanced digital optics to allow for accurate depth acquisition.

Compact camera modules are essential to new technologies and consumer electronics of the future, because, as evidenced by these examples, when we produce more powerful images with high quality cameras, we can also create useful tools with which to utilize them.