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SA’s first certified drone pilots graduate

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UAV Industries has released the first set of certified drone pilots, allowing them to legally fly drones in the region and opening up a range of new jobs for them.

UAV Industries (UAVI), the Western Cape’s only drone pilot training centre, has released its first batch of 14 graduates. These are the first certified trained pilots who are authorised to fly drones in the region. This spells the commencement of new jobs in the country for a brand new industry, with just four training schools currently in South Africa.

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UAV Industries Chief Instructor, Greg Donaldson, explains, “People think that drones are just good for Cape Town’s booming film industry, but there are a wide diversity of industries that will need, and employ, certified drone pilots – agriculture, infrastructure, and utilities, for example. Anything that manned aviation does today that doesn’t involve the transportation of passengers will be taken over by drones over the next five to ten years so there’s huge opportunities for the industry. Things are moving incredibly quickly.”

UAV Industries has assumed first mover advantage in the Cape. On the 23rd of December, the Civil Aviation provided UAV Industries with the certificate to train individuals as a Remote Training Organisation (RTO) under part 141 of the Civil Aviation regulations.

“Within the first week of January we had a lot of interest from potential drone pilots and we’ve been working with mainly experienced model aeroplane flyers that which to convert into legal drone pilots. In the first 8 weeks we’ve had over 50 people book through our courses and our first “recruits” already certified and ready to earn,” adds Donaldson.

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To fly a drone legally the operator needs three items of paperwork: the drone, pilot and company all need to be licenced.

“What we’re offering through our training school is the ability to licence the pilot and to get the equivalent in manned aviation of a commercial pilot’s licence. There is a pre-on site program and then there’s two weeks full time on site between the ground school and flight school, totalling three to four weeks in total.”

“There is a lot of detail and requirements that are needed for people to understand the airspace that one’s operating. We need this time to shape expert flyers into commercial flyers. It’s not the ability so much to fly a drone, but it’s that concept of safe flying – all the risk assessments that go around a mission or a flight, and understanding how to integrate manned and unmanned aviation. Crucial in our course is airmanship. You can be the best radio control aircraft flyer, but you’ll fail our course if you don’t have situational awareness of, not just the drone, but the other users of the airspace around you – people on the ground, buildings, and property. For the final pass to get your licence, we bring a Civil Aviation designated examiner out from Johannesburg who tests out every single student to Civil Aviation standards and we will not recommend a student to that test unless they meet our standards – we haven’t had one student fail so far. It’s a very good measure. The designated examiner has been very complimentary of the standard which we train our students, specifically airmanship safety.”

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As part of the course, UAV Industries facilitates the entire process with Civil Aviation to get their “red book” – the pilots licence, leaving the pilot to ensure they have a legal Remote Operating Company (ROC) and the drone is registered.

Being a drone pilot is a “future-proof job”. A large function of how much the pilot can expect to earn per day depends on the equipment with drones varying in size from the size of a smart phone to a motor car.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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