The U.S. government uses them to bomb alleged terrorists in far-away places. Tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook are all toying with the idea of using them, and now they're a photographer's secret weapon. Drones are a big part of our lives, whether we see them or not. Drone Beat collects the best and most important stories every week.
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Last update: August 1, 6:01 p.m. ET
Drone used to try smuggling contraband into a prison
Two men are suspected of using a flying robot to try to smuggle drugs, phones and tobacco into a South Carolina maximum security prison in April. The drone, however, crashed outside of the prison walls, authorities said on Wednesday.
This is not the first time someone has tried to use an unmanned aerial vehicle for this kind of contraband smuggling operation. In March, Motherboard listed some previous drone smuggling operations (that we know of), including cases in Canada, Georgia, and Australia.
Martha Stewart has a bad case of loving her drone
We already knew Martha Stewart was a drone enthusiast. But now we know why: because they're useful.
In a lengthy piece for Time, Stewart explained that she received a DJI Phantom for her birthday last year. And since then, she has been using it to take "breathtaking" and "stunning" pictures and videos of her farm as well as other landscapes. With a drone, Stewart wrote, she was able to see "so much more of my surroundings than usual."
"In just a few minutes I was hooked," she wrote, before going into a somewhat convoluted drone love letter.
Drones are trending.
— Martha Stewart (@MarthaStewart) July 30, 2014
Professors don't like government restrictions on drones
University and college professors wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) complaining about restrictions on the use of drones. The 30 professors who signed the letter said that the current FAA rules will stifle academic research.
"Free and open access to this technology is absolutely essential to our nation's continued leadership in aviation, to our future economy and to our long-term security," they wrote in the letter.
Hamas claims to have downed an Israeli drone
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' militant wing, showed off what looks like an Israeli drone on Monday. The Israeli military, however, denied losing any drone in Gaza, so it's unclear exactly how Hamas got its hands on what looks like a Skylark drone, manufactured by an Israeli company.
Hamas release video of downed drone by Tranganhnam88
Even drones take selfies now
Taking selfies with drones, also known as dronies, are a thing now. But an Italian artist collective has taken this somewhat ridiculous trend to a whole different level: flying robots taking pictures of themselves using mirrors.
Brace yourself. "Drone selfies" are here. http://t.co/GL4r71q3yp pic.twitter.com/5Xm4D0ovoH
— Bigstock (@Bigstock) July 31, 2014
"This series displays the daily activities of drones," Paolo Ruffino, one of the artists from the coalition called IOCOSE, told the Huffington Post. "What would they do if they were not involved in war scenarios, or used by human beings to deliver parcels, take photos of unreachable areas and so on? We think drones would probably keep themselves busy with very banal activities, repetitive tasks that do not need much imagination."
In other words: selfies.
Eerie video of abandoned nuclear power plant
Drone pilot Braden Roseborough shot an eerie, haunting video of the abandoned nuclear power plant in Satsop, Washington. We've seen all kinds of cool videos shot with drones, but this is definitely a must-watch.
Satsop Nuclear Reactor by Tranganhnam88
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