10 top gadgets of 2018

Technology advances quickly, and it can be hard to keep up on which gadgets and gizmos made the biggest splash. Fortunately, looking back on 2018, a few big themes developed — televisions became smarter, speakers responded to voice commands. Another interesting trend? Prices became a bit more reasonable for gadgets like the Apple iPhone XR. … Continue reading “10 top gadgets of 2018”

Technology advances quickly, and it can be hard to keep up on which gadgets and gizmos made the biggest splash. Fortunately, looking back on 2018, a few big themes developed — televisions became smarter, speakers responded to voice commands. Another interesting trend? Prices became a bit more reasonable for gadgets like the Apple iPhone XR. Here are the top picks in several categories.

1. Phone: Apple iPhone XR ($749)

Apple made waves this year by releasing three different phones (including the iPhone XS and CS Max with an OLED display), but the iPhone XR with an LCD display is arguably the best option. At $749, it still has an extremely fast A12 Bionic processor and a high-end camera.

2. TV: Samsung Q9FN 65-inch ($2,999)

Televisions are smarter than ever. The Samsung Q9FN can read your Wi-Fi settings and password from your Android phone, and it senses when you have an Xbox One connected and can adjust the display for 4K resolution and the best gaming color mode.

3. Tablet: Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch display ($999)

The big news with the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch released this fall is that it uses a processor that is more powerful than some laptops, including Apple’s own MacBook line. Apps like Adobe Lightroom CC for iPad and Affinity Photo handle high-res images with ease.

4. Laptop: Dell XPS 13 ($850)

At just 2.67 pounds, the Dell XPS 13 is lighter than many tablets (including the Microsoft Surface line) but runs on a screaming fast Intel Core i7 processor. The claim to fame? Dell has figured out how to make the display run all the way to the edges.

5. Desktop: HP EliteOne 1000 G2 34-in Curved All-in-One ($1,794)

For productivity gurus, a curved wide screen like the HP Elite means you have more room for tabs in a browser, and more screen real estate for your apps. It’s also a brilliant gaming desktop and ideal for Skype sessions with a pop-up high-res webcam.

6. Earbuds: Jabra Evolve 65t ($329)

For those who have not quite accepted the reality of using wireless earbuds yet and prefer a wired connection, it’s time to reconsider. The Jabra Evolve 65t sound as good if not better, and have the added benefit of one-touch access to a voice assistant.

7. Drone: DJI Mavic Pro ($999)

Drones with fold-up arms became the norm in 2018, and the DJI Mavic Pro is the best of the bunch. It’s also much quieter and smoother during flight. The Mavic captures in 4K video resolution and doesn’t require a complicated setup.

8. Robot: Neato Botvac D7 Connected ($699.99)

The smartest robots let you leave them alone all day for weeks at a time, and they merrily go about their business. Set on a cleaning schedule, the Neato robotic vacuum will do its work without getting stuck or falling down a staircase.

9. Speaker: Sonos Beam ($399)

Speakers finally embraced the concept of voice control in 2018. The Sonos Beam lets you ask Amazon Alexa questions about the weather, but also syncs to the DISH Hopper 3 receiver for changing channels, finding shows, and raising the TV volume.

10. Camera: Nikon Z7 ($3,400)

A great camera, the Nikon Z7 snaps photos lightning fast, even at an athletics event. It uses a new mirrorless technology to capture stunningly crisp photos at 45.7-megapixels, letting in more light than a traditional DSLR.

New York police unveil drone program

New York City police officials said Tuesday they will deploy drones to assist in rescue missions, traffic-accident investigations and large-scale events, a move that raised privacy concerns among civil-liberty advocates.

Members of the New York Police Department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit, or TARU, will use 14 drones, which will cost the department $480,000 in 2019, according to an NYPD spokeswoman. A member of the unit will operate a drone remotely to make three-dimensional projections of traffic accidents, search for evidence and collect details in spills involving hazardous material. Chief of Department Terence Monahan said it is the first time the NYPD will be deploying the drones in public.

The devices, which have thermal sensors to detect a person’s heat energy, will also be used to monitor large events and hostage situations, according to a copy of the NYPD’s policy on the technology obtained by The Wall Street Journal.


The NYPD is restricted from using the drones to perform routine patrol, surveillance without a warrant or traffic enforcement. However, the policy leaves the door open for the NYPD to use the technology in other incidents related to “public safety, emergency, or other situations with the approval of the Chief of Department.” The devices aren’t equipped with any weapons, a spokeswoman said.

The NYPD met with and provided a draft of its drone policy to the New York Civil Liberties Union before completing its program. NYCLU associate legal director Chris Dunn said he expressed concerns regarding police use of the technology.

“Police cameras in the skies of New York City offer a new frontier for both public safety and abuses of power,” Mr. Dunn said.

In a statement, the Legal Aid Society said it opposed police use of the technology. “Its continued unrestrained expansion will only further sow distrust and increase unequal treatment of our clients,” the organization said in a statement. “This is a dangerous step towards the further militarization of the NYPD.”

To read the rest of this story, which was first published in The Wall Street Journal, click here. 

Tiny flying robots haul heavy loads in amazing video

A remarkable video released by Stanford University shows tiny flying robots that have been modified to move loads up to 40 times their weight.

By perching and using powerful winches, the robots, dubbed “FlyCroTugs,” can move much larger objects. The video, for example, shows two FlyCroTugs working together to open a door. A flying robot is also shown winching a water bottle.

The FlyCroTugs use a specially designed adhesive to grip different surfaces. Inspired by geckos, the “gecko grippers” were developed by Stanford to grip objects without applying excessing pressure.


Experts from Stanford and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have been working on the FlyCroTugs, which are themselves inspired by wasps.

A paper on the flying robots was published Thursday in the journal Science Robotics.

"Wasps can fly rapidly to a piece of food, and then if the thing's too heavy to take off with, they drag it along the ground,” said Mark Cutkosky, the Fletcher Jones Chair in the School of Engineering at Stanford University and co-author of the paper, in a statement. So this was sort of the beginning inspiration for the approach we took."

Experts say that the FlyCroTugs could be useful for navigating small spaces in search and rescue missions. The robots could, for example, transport water bottles or cameras. “Holding tightly to surfaces as they tug, the tiny robots could potentially move pieces of debris or position a camera to evaluate a treacherous area,” according to Stanford’s statement.

Researchers have already used a FlyCroTug to fly a camera to the top of a crumbling structure and look inside.

"When you're a small robot, the world is full of large obstacles," said Matthew Estrada, a graduate student at Stanford and the paper’s lead author, in a statement. "Combining the aerodynamic forces of our aerial vehicle along with interaction forces that we generate with the attachment mechanisms resulted in something that was very mobile, very forceful and micro as well."


Emergency services are already using drone technology. Earlier this year, for example, a drone was used to rescue two swimmers in Australia. Lifeguards used the device to drop a rescue pod to the two teens, in what has been described as the world’s first rescue mission by unmanned aircraft.

Fox News’ Katherine Lam contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Bee-sized bots set to dominate future battles for cities

In future battles, new American warriors may be the size of a baseball, the size of a bumble bee – even the size of a grain of sand.

Micro-bots and milli-bots may be small in size, but they are giant in terms of impact. This next generation of drones will also be smarter, faster and deployable in powerful swarms. The futuristic intelligence on these machines is mind-boggling and will make current “autonomy” look positively prehistoric. 

Swarms will be able to work intuitively and collaboratively in teams, with or without humans, to carry out complex missions.

Human ground warriors could have a machine-based teammate – one that is a swarm, including more than 250 small flying, climbing and “walking” machines.


Collectively, the swarm can autonomously take on tasks that are dangerous for their human teammates. From conducting reconnaissance in advance of missions through to searching for survivors in collapsed, unstable buildings in humanitarian operations, the potential to reduce risk and save human lives is enormous.

DARPA is eyeing sophisticated micro-bots to help U.S. forces. (DARPA)

Hundreds, (and eventually thousands) of tiny drones will be able to deploy together. This will involve thinking for themselves, communicating with each other, adapting to each other’s movements, reacting to changing circumstances and improvising to achieve objectives by drawing upon a deep tactics library to execute an assigned mission.

Not only will they be able to integrate into human teams, but drone swarms will also be able to conduct their own missions independently.

DARPA has a number of programs that are radically changing the way drones will be used going forward – and these programs continue to make giant strides at a remarkable pace.


FLA (Fast Lightweight Autonomy), OFFSET (Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics) and SHRIMP (Short-Range Independent Microrobotic Platforms), are three such promising initiatives already delivering remarkable results.

DARPA has selected a number of top teams from around the country to contribute their smarts to creating this new generation.

These little fellas will be absolutely game-changing when the military is required to deploy in urban terrains. They represent a series of remarkable advances and breakthroughs with wide-ranging implications for other technology in the military space and also in the civilian space.

Size, scale, smarts and how they are sent on missions are just four of the big ways that will change. Here’s a look at the sort of missions swarms can take on and how they will interact with human warriors.

Sending on missions

The goal is for the drones to be autonomous on an unprecedented level. This will also be evident in how they interact with humans. Directing them will go beyond the tablet. The drones will be smart enough to respond to cues much like a human teammate would.


As things advance, the human warriors will be able to communicate with the drones using verbal cues and gestures. There may use a specific “language” of verbal and physical signals, but nonetheless human and bot interaction will radically leap ahead.  It will greatly improve the ease and speed with which operators can deploy them to execute tasks.



DARPA is also taking drones from zero to hero in terms of intellect.

Ultimately, there is no human warrior with a joystick, an X-box-like controller or a tablet giving detailed directions. The new generation of drones will be truly autonomous – not just able to fly from A to B complying with instructions and coordinates or mindlessly following humans like robot ‘dogs’ carrying heavy loads.

These drones will be able to think for themselves, adapt to the environment and each other, problem solve and work collaboratively to accomplish missions – all without a human giving detailed instructions to each one or piloting them remotely.


Urban and subterranean environments can present a lot of potentially dangerous unknowns. So stealthy, smart and small combat units will have the powerful advantage of unprecedented data in advance thanks to these little drones.


Tiny bots can crawl under cracks below doors, fly through partially opened windows, discreetly perch on a combatant’s shoe, even infiltrating a heavily fortified bomb making lab. The bots can act as teeny tiny spies collecting crucial visual, audio and other data with their advanced sensors.

In advance of human raids into areas where little is known, such as the interior of a city building or an underground WMD base, for example, micro-bots and milli-bots can be deployed by units to rapidly explore unknown areas. They can build maps and feedback other vital data.

Another example would be hostage rescues where the bots could surreptitiously deploy into the enemy held area, map it out, identify the exact number of combatants, how they are armed, the locations of all combatants and the hostages, the medical condition of the hostages and more.

The bots don’t have to be piloted by a warrior with a tablet to do this – they are autonomous. They are given a mission and do what it takes to achieve their objectives and return to their human teammates.


Swarm raids

First-generation primitive swarms may only be able to locate an assigned area, identify points of entry and map the layouts for human assaulters. Some may be able to independently secure perimeters for their human teammates.

However, based on the current trajectory of amazing advances, U.S. drone swarms comprised of a mix of bots could eventually be capable of conducting their own urban raids. This isn’t a swarm raiding a dollhouse, this is a swarm capable of six-hour missions in areas covering eight city blocks.

Swarms will also be able to deploy alongside human teams and take on tasks such as suppressing enemy fire, maintaining flank security or even isolating and clearing a building.

Stealthy mode and saving downed pilots behind enemy lines

Since this new generation will be far more autonomous, they won’t need communications links to a human “pilot.” This will reduce radio transmissions between the bots and the human team.

Reduced radio transmissions makes it harder for enemy forces to detect bot swarms that have covertly infiltrated to monitor them. And very importantly, it reduces the chances of enemy forces detecting the presence of American warfighters in the area, which helps keep them safe.


The advanced autonomy also means that if there is a downed pilot behind enemy lines, then the drone swarms can sweep areas searching in radio silence. This can help reduce the risk of the enemy forces identifying the location of the pilot and the presence of U.S. forces on a rescue mission.

Natural disaster swarm rescue missions

Micro-bots and milli-bots can also provide huge humanitarian impact as well in terms of saving lives and helping keep rescuers safe. Tiny bots, for example, can navigate through rubble to help quickly locate survivors trapped in the aftermath of an earthquake

Allison Barrie is a defense specialist with experience in more than 70 countries who consults at the highest levels of defense and national security, a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees, and author of the definitive guide, Future Weapons: Access Granted, on sale in 30 countries.  Barrie hosts the new hit podcast “Tactical Talk”  where she gives listeners direct access to the most fascinating Special Operations warriors each week and to find out more about the FOX Firepower host and columnist you can click here or follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie and Instagram @allisonbarriehq.

Drone fleet could help find lost hikers, MIT researchers say

Researchers at MIT say that a sophisticated fleet of drones could help find lost hikers by searching under dense forest canopies.

The autonomous drones would bypass the problem of unreliable or nonexistent GPS signals in forest environments by using onboard computation and wireless communication, according to the experts.

The team’s research is revealed in a paper that will be presented at the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this week.


Using laser range-finders to estimate their position and plan a route, the drones will create 3-D maps of the terrain. Algorithms will be employed to help the drones identify unexplored areas and places that it has already searched.

Eventually, researchers want to give the drones object detection technology to help identify missing hikers. This would tag the hiker’s location on a map that can be used by human rescuers.

“Essentially, we’re replacing humans with a fleet of drones to make the search part of the search-and-rescue process more efficient,” said the paper’s lead author Yulun Tian, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro).


The MIT experts tested a number of drones in forest simulations, and also tested two drones in a forested area at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. “In both experiments, each drone mapped a roughly 20-square-meter area in about two to five minutes and collaboratively fused their maps together in real-time,” they said, in a statement. “The drones also performed well across several metrics, including overall speed and time to complete the mission, detection of forest features, and accurate merging of maps.”

A LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system was mounted on the drones to create a 2-D scan of surrounding obstacles. LiDAR uses a laser to measure distances to the Earth’s surface and can prove extremely valuable to study areas with thick vegetation. The technology, for example, has been used to locate a number of archaeological sites.

Archaeologists, for example, have harnessed the technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle.


LiDAR is also used extensively in other applications, including autonomous cars, where it allows vehicles to have a continuous 360 degrees view.

The MIT team programmed the drones to identify the orientations of multiple trees – an algorithm was used to calculate the angles and distances between trees to pinpoint specific clusters. “Drones can use that as a unique signature to tell if they’ve visited this area before or if it’s a new area,” said Tian.

The drones communicate with a ground station that uses specialized navigation software to map unknown areas and keep track of the flying robots. The Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) software uses the LiDAR data to capture the drones’ positions and accurately fuse the digital maps they create.


However, researchers would like to reduce the drones’ reliance on the ground station. The team hopes to design the drones to communicate wirelessly when approaching one another, fusing their maps, and cutting communication when they separate. “The ground station, in that case, would only be used to monitor the updated global map,” they explain, in the statement.

Rescue services are increasingly harnessing drone technology. Earlier this year, lifeguards in Australia used a drone to help save two teenage boys caught in dangerous waves in what was described as the world’s first rescue by unmanned aircraft.

Fox News’ Katherine Lam contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Army to control overseas combat drones from US

The U.S. Army is working with industry to implement drone operations that enable high-risk combat missions to be controlled by a U.S.-based pilot, reducing vulnerability to enemy attack and drawing upon advanced satellite networks to improve video feeds.

It’s a technical system called Remote Split Operations (RSO), which has been operational with Air Force from a high-op-tempo command and control station at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

Much of the work, going back years to the time when the Air Force first developed the technology, is performed by a U.S.-based ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) firm called MAG Aerospace. Years ago, MAG's Air Force service began with enabling Predator feeds and then migrating to Reapers.

Now, given the massive uptick in combat zone combatant commander requests for ISR and drone operations – MAG is working closely with the Army to bring this technology to the Army’s Grey Eagle drone.

“We support the long haul connectivity where the pilot and the sensor operator are separated. They connect through terrestrial and satellite communications to remote locations forward in theater,” John Belcher, MAG Director of Technical Service, told Warrior in an interview.

The core elements of the technology, which MAG now operates for at least seven Air Force sites, are quickly being transferred to Army command and control centers at both Ft. Stewart, Ga., and Ft. Hood, Texas.

“Eight years ago we first briefed the Army Chief of Staff on RSO to enhance mission capability. Fast forward to now – we are bringing RSO to the Army,” Dan Edwards, Vice President MAG’s Fayetteville business unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Also, the technology continues to evolve, MAG developers say; the ISR system now brings operators and ability to watch 10-points of interest, enabling more than 10 close air patrol missions at one time, Belcher explained.

“We also do maintenance on the aircraft,” he added.

Using the “long-haul” remote connectivity, drones are taken off “line-of-sight” connectivity using “C-band” satellite frequencies. The drones takeoff and land from what is called the “launch and recovery element,” Edwards explained.

Improved resolution and fidelity of video images also represents a significant a significant technical step forward for the ISR operations. Typically, most video appears with a 1080 pixels (dots per square inch) level of resolution – yet MAG is now integrating the most cutting edge commercial resolution. The increased clarity, used in the most modern televisions, goes as high as 4K – or 4,000 pixels. (Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Shoomaker has joined MAG Aerospace Board of Directors).

“This makes it easier for an imaging analyst to differentiate whether a guy is carrying a broom or a weapon,” Belcher said.

Advanced ISR technology, Edwards said, is also increasingly drawing upon artificial intelligence to organize incoming data from video feeds. Advanced AI, for instance, can help identify moments of tactical relevance and free up human operators for more pressing missions.

“AI can help us narrow the search,” Edwards added.

“When we are doing ops and maintaining architecture such as these critical components against threats, we make sure the hardware and software are immune from cyberattack,” Joe Fluet, MAG CEO, told Warrior.

The maturation of this technology, developers explain, has been advancing at near lighting speed.

“When I was on my first military assignment during the Gulf War, I wore a pair of binoculars and night vision. I wrote down what I saw. While there still is a place for rotary wing technology, the U.S. military has obviated the need for low and slow platforms. We can fly higher, faster and collect a much greater level of detail,” Fluet said.

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Drones may be terrorists’ next tool of choice, as FBI’s Wray warns of ‘escalating threat’

The potential use of civilian drones by terrorists and other criminal groups to carry out attacks poses a “steadily escalating threat,” FBI Director Christopher Wray warned a Senate panel Wednesday.

Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Wray said groups like the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, MS-13 and Mexican drug cartels have made efforts to use commercial drones as weapons, the Daily Caller reported.

“Terrorist groups could easily export their battlefield experiences to use weaponized” drones, Wray said in written testimony.

The drones could be used for surveillance, or for chemical, biological and radiological attacks on large open-air venues or government facilities, the FBI said.


Wray said the risk has increased since August, when drones equipped with explosives were used in an assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Wray’s testimony came days after President Trump signed legislation into law that gives the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI the ability disable or destroy drones that pose a threat to government facilities, Bloomberg News reported.

"The FBI assesses that, given their retail availability, lack of verified identification requirement to procure, general ease of use, and prior use overseas, (drones) will be used to facilitate an attack in the United States against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering."

FBI Director Christopher Wray is seen in December 2017. (Reuters)

The drone provision amounts to an unchecked grant of authority to the government, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, adding drones could be removed from the sky for "nebulous security circumstances."

Wray noted the FBI foiled attempted drone attacks on the Pentagon and Capitol building. Rezwan Ferdaus planned to use three remote-controlled airplanes, each packed with five pounds of explosives and capable of flying 100 miles per hour, and crash them into the buildings using a GPS system.

In 2012, he was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Citing federal statistics, Sen. Ron Johnson, R- Wis., committee chairman, said earlier this year that the number of drone flights over sensitive areas has jumped from eight in 2013 to around 1,752 in 2016, Reuters said.


The drone market has rapidly expanded in recent years. In January, the Federal Aviation Administration said more than 1 million have been registered in the U.S.

Companies such as Amazon, FedEx Corp. and Uber have embraced the new technology as it looks to expand its delivery options.

Uber ambitiously eyes 2021 for food-delivery drones launch

Uber Technologies Inc. envisions taking to the skies with a fleet of food-delivery drones in as little as three years, an ambitious timeline for a ride-hailing company that would face numerous technical challenges and regulatory hurdles.

The San Francisco company is seeking an operations executive who can help make delivery drones functional as soon as next year and commercially operational in multiple markets by 2021, according to a job posting that appeared on Uber’s website. App-reliant Uber has limited experience developing hardware beyond its nascent electric scooters and its equipment for self-driving vehicles, an as-yet unproven technology.

The drone executive will “enable safe, legal, efficient and scalable flight operations,” according to the job listing, which refers to UberExpress, an internal name used for the drone delivery operation within its UberEats prepared-food delivery unit.

After an inquiry from The Wall Street Journal, Uber removed the job listing titled “Flight Standards and Training” from its site. A spokesman said the posting “does not fully reflect our program, which is still in very early days.”


Uber is crafting a narrative around its ambitions beyond ride-hailing, as it eyes a 2019 IPO that bankers say could value the company at $120 billion. It will have to woo investors who may be skeptical over its scandal-plagued past and lack of profits in the ride-hailing business by pointing to its plans for delivery drones, flying taxis and rental electric scooters and bicycles. Last week, it announced a new tractor-trailer rental business for long-haul truckers.

Proponents of unmanned aircraft such as Uber, Amazon.com Inc. and other companies are scrambling to draft wide-ranging blueprints for various home delivery efforts, ranging from training ground operators and certifying vehicles to analyzing hazardous incidents. But Uber sketched out a faster timeline than many regulators envision, and such companies generally have been careful to avoid antagonizing regulators by publicly laying out comprehensive plans before they have even been formally submitted or gone through vetting by regulators.

Click here to read the rest of this story, which originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal. 

Video shows devastating damage drones can inflict on planes

A video produced by the University of Dayton Research Institute shows in alarming detail what happens when a drone collides with a plane.

The test, which mimicked a midair collision at 238 mph, launched a 2.1-pound DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter into the wing of a Mooney M20 aircraft. Experts from UDRI’s Impact Physics group note that the drone did not shatter on impact, but tore open the wing’s leading edge, damaging its main spar.

The video, however, has been slammed by DJI, which describes the test as "misleading." In a statement released Friday, the drone manufacturer says that the simulation was staged at both faster than maximum possible speed and Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.

UDRI described the results of its test in a blog post accompanying the video, which was posted to YouTube on Sept. 13. “While the quadcopter broke apart, its energy and mass hung together to create significant damage to the wing,” explained Kevin Poormon, group leader for impact physics at UDRI.


“We’ve performed bird-strike testing for 40 years, and we’ve seen the kind of damage birds can do,” Poormon added. “Drones are similar in weight to some birds, and so we’ve watched with growing concern as reports of near collisions have increased."

DJI is demanding that UDRI withdraw its video and blog post on the drone collision. "UDRI staged its video to create a scenario inconceivable in real life, at a higher speed than the combined maximum speed of the drone and airplane, which is also faster than U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) testing guidelines," it said in its statement.

UDRI told Fox News that the test was designed to serve as a comparative study between a bird strike and a drone strike on an aircraft wing. "There are currently no FAA crash test parameters for drone strike testing," it said, in a statement emailed to Fox News Sunday.

The blog post was updated again on Monday. The test aimed to compare a bird strike and a drone strike, using a drone similar in weight to many hobby drones and a wing selected to represent "a leading edge structure of a commercial transport aircraft," according to Poormon, in Monday's update. "The drone and gel bird were the same weight and were launched at rates designed to reflect the relative combined speed of a fully intact drone traveling toward a commercial transport aircraft moving at a high approach speed," the statement added.

UDRI also updated the description accompanying the test video on YouTube.

The potential risk posed by drones to aircraft has attracted plenty of attention in recent years. In the UDRI blog post, Poormon also cited a collision between a hobby drone and an Army Blackhawk helicopter last year. The incident near Hoffman Island, just off Staten Island, New York, was the first confirmed mid-air collision in the U.S. between a drone and a manned aircraft.

The helicopter suffered minor damage while the DJI Phantom 4 drone was destroyed, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.


Drones are also called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

The first confirmed drone collision with a commercial aircraft in North America took place in Quebec City, Canada, in October 2017. The small drone crashed into a twin-propeller Beech 100 King Air with six passengers and two crew members aboard as the plane was descending to land. No one was injured, and the plane landed safely with only minor damage.

Last year, the FAA and the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) released the results of a major air-to-air collision study. Researchers found that the areas of manned aircraft most likely to be impacted are the leading edges of wings, vertical and horizontal stabilizers, and windscreens.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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Drone expert, Homeland Security agree airborne threats are ‘outpacing’ US defenses

A former elite drone pilot for U.S. special operations tells Fox News that the government is "just not ready" to defend against the threat of over-the-counter drones being weaponized to carry-out attacks like the one recently in Venezuela.

And while President Trump may have just signed a bill that could help bolster our defenses, the leaders of both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI recently told lawmakers that the U.S. is already behind on the issue, and that a domestic attack using the kind of drones available to everyday consumers may be inevitable.

"Emerging threats are outpacing our defenses," Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Senate committee on homeland security and government affairs on October 10, pointing to unmanned aerial systems (otherwise known as 'drones') as a "prime example."

"Unfortunately, outdated laws have prevented us from setting up the sophisticated countermeasures we need to protect significant national events, federal facilities, and other potential targets from an airborne menace," Nielsen added. What's more, she told lawmakers, DHS didn't even have the clear legal authority to neutralize potentially dangerous drones determined to be a threat until recently, or to even test what she called "the crucial countermeasures we need in real-world environments where the risks exist."

DHS was finally given that authority on October 5 when President Trump signed into law the new FAA Reauthorization bill. The legislation not only tackles issues like the amount of leg room on commercial flights, it also grants DHS the authority to monitor, track, seize, exercise control of, confiscate, or even destroy any drone it deems a threat to what they define as a "covered facility or asset."

That definition refers to any location identified as "high-risk and a potential target for unlawful unmanned aircraft activity," language that is considered overly broad by a variety of drone and civil rights activists.

Even with that new authority, FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators that "the FBI assesses that, given their retail availability, lack of verified identification requirement to procure, general ease of use, and prior use overseas, [drones] will be used to facilitate an attack in the United States against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering." A DHS threat warning updated in August 2018 reiterated the government's concerns that drones "may be capable of transporting contraband, chemical, or other explosive/weaponized payloads."

Brett Velicovich, a former special operations drone pilot who now advises private and government officials all the way up to the White House on how to defend against this type of threat, adds that even with the new authority granted by the president there isn't a whole lot the government can do. "The technology that exists now isn't capable of successfully taking down drones at the rate it needs to be, so [the bill] won't matter, but it's a good beginning." DHS did not respond to a request for comment on this assessment.

Brett Velicovich, a former special operations drone pilot, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with the growing threat of commercially available drones being weaponized by bad actors.

Velicovich says the alleged assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro over the summer, in which two drones loaded with explosives detonated amid a military parade, was apparently carried out with the kind of technology available to everyday consumers. It was just last year that CENTCOM officials told Fox News U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were dealing with upwards of 30 encounters a week with non-military drones that had been weaponized by ISIS.

That, Velicovich argues, is the essence of the problem.

"The same stuff that's available to consumers is the kind of tech I wished I would've had in the military," Velicovich says. "In the course of simple development, [drone manufacturers] are creating things that defeat these millions of dollars of equipment that the government uses to help combat the problem, so it's a constant back-and-forth between government agencies that see the threat, and these manufacturers just trying to make money," he added.

Fox News was able to confirm that some of the best-selling consumer/commercial drones – which are widely available in stores and on the internet – are indeed capable of carrying enough weight to deliver payloads that could do serious damage.

The National Football League (NFL) is an organization that has first-hand experience with this issue, and the organization's president of security notes it could have been much worse.

Cathy Lanier, the senior vice president of security for the NFL & the former District of Columbia police chief, told lawmakers on September 13 about a particularly disturbing incident during which a drone not only penetrated stadium airspace, it also dropped leaflets all over a San Francisco 49ers crowd.

"We're all very fortunate that the drone… dropped just leaflets," Lanier warned.

Defending against the threat of weaponized drones is a problem that has produced a myriad of solutions, some more realistic than others. In this photo, a French army falconer works with a golden eagle as part of a military training for combat against drones in Mont-de-Marsan French Air Force base, Southwestern France, February 10, 2017. (REUTERS/Regis Duvignau, File)

Velicovich participated in a gathering organized by Interpol over the summer on this very issue, advising law enforcement from around the world on what he calls an immediate threat. He says it's heartening to see people finally waking up to a threat he's been warning about for some time, even if he believes some of their methods are questionable.

"I've seen everything, in France they're training bald eagles to go take down drones and in Thailand, police have drones with 10-20 foot nets," Velicovich says, "but these drones nowadays are so fast that things like nets are a joke."

In the end, Velicovich still thinks that drones are a force for good, and that they aren't going away anytime soon.

"You have to do it both ways. You have to talk about the dangers of it, but at the same time the benefits of drones well outweigh the risks," he says. "We'll see the day where there's a drone for every household."