Professional drone racing could become an Olympic sport: DRL CEO

Professional drone racing, where fully manual racing drones are expertly piloted around complex three-dimensional racecourses, could one day become an Olympic sport, according to the CEO of the world’s leading professional drone racing league.

“There’s been a lot of conversations about [drone racing becoming an Olympic sport], and they’ve looked pretty seriously at it for the games coming up in Korea,” said Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of the Drone Racing League (DRL), told Factor.

“I don’t think you will see it in the immediate term, but I definitely think there’s discussions around it, there’s excitement about it, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see drone racing appear in the Olympics in the future.”

The largest professional drone league in the world, the Drone Racing League completed its second season this week with a final held at Alexandra Palace in London, the UK. The season will begin airing in over 75 countries next week, including the UK on Sky Sports Mix on the 21st June and the US on ESPN on the 20th June.

Using custom racing drones that require fully manual control, the Drone Racing League has turned the formerly underground sport of drone racing into a rigorous and highly professional affair, suitable for events such as the Olympics.

“We had to develop our own racing drone from the ground up that was sort of the ultimate high-performance machine for drones,” explained Horbaczewski.

“Racing drones are very different from the kind of camera drones you’d go out and buy on the high street; these are very specialised craft.

“I would say camera drones that people buy are sort of like lorries: they’re a functional craft with a very specific purpose. These racing drones are like Formula One cars: they’re built for speed, performance and sport.”

An excited crowd watch the Drone Racing League 2017 season final, which was held this week at Alexandra Palace in London, the UK, and will air next month following a season start next week. Images courtesy of the Drone Racing League

The DRL’s professional drone racers are also a rare breed, coming from a mixture of the remote control community, motorcycle and car racing and the professional videogame community. And while the basics of consumer drone piloting can be picked up fairly easily, racing drones are considerably tougher.

“It is extremely hard to race drones,” said Horbaczewski. “These are fully manual drones, so there’s no stabilisation, there’s no computer-assistance in flying.  They’re truly controlling power to the four different motors and controlling all the dimensions of flight that way.

“Learning to fly a racing drone is challenging; to reach the professional levels you really have to be very exceptional at flying drones.”

Researchers believe modified CRISPR could be used without editing DNA

Researchers from the US' Salk Institute have used CRISPR as a switch that turns genes on and off and allows harmful mutant genes to be disabled without affecting the structure of their DNA. Until this development gene editing using CRISPR carried the risk of causing unintended effects.

Source: Gizmodo

Nissan to trial robo-taxis in Japan next year

The carmaker Nissan is is partnering with Japanese software company DeNA to test self-driving taxis on Japanese roads from March next year. The free trials will be held over a two-week period in March in Yokohama, and Nissan believes the service could be officially launched in Japan in the early 2020s.

Source: BBC

Apparently, gaming can save your brain

Research participants who played 3D platforming games like the iconic Super Mario 64 had more gray matter in their hippocampus after playing, That part of the brain transforms short-term memories into long-term ones and maintains the spatial memory that helps us navigate the world around us.

Source: Inverse

San Francisco votes to restrict delivery robots

San Francisco officials have voted to restrict where delivery robots can go in the city, amid concerns about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children. Start-ups will now have to get permits to use such bots, which will be restricted to less crowded urban areas.

Source: BBC

Steam stops accepting Bitcoin

When Valve first started accepting Bitcoin in April 2016 it was trading around $450 per coin. Today, with Bitcoin surging past $12,000 per coin, Valve has announced that "Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin."

Source: Ars Technica

The maker of Budweiser beer reserves 40 Tesla electric trucks

Budweiser beer maker Anheuser-Busch has reserved 40 Tesla all-electric Semi trucks as it seeks to reduce fuel costs and vehicle emissions. The reservation is one of the largest publicly announced orders Tesla has received, while production of the trucks is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Source: Reuters

The UK government is launching a fintech competition to help renters get on the property ladder

The UK government is offering £2 million to fintech developers who come up with a tool that lets renters record and share their payment data.

The Rent Recognition Challenge, which was first announced as part of the chancellors’ autumn budget, will task developers with finding a way to record payment data from Britain’s 11 million renters in a bid to improve their credit scores and ultimately help them to get a mortgage.

“Most lenders and Credit Reference Agencies are unable to take rental data into account, because they don’t have access to it.

“The Rent Recognition Challenge will challenge firms to develop an innovative solution to this problem and help to restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation,” said the economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay.

Economic secretary to HM Treasury, Stephen Barclay. Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

The competition will provide an initial round of grant funding to six promising proposals to help turn their ideas into workable products.

A panel of leading figures from the Fintech sector will then whittle the six down to just a handful of teams who will receive further funding and support to bring their ideas to market.

“People’s monthly rent is often their biggest expense, so it makes sense for it to be recognised when applying for a mortgage. Without a good credit score, getting a mortgage can be a real struggle.”

Image courtesy of Jeff Djevdet

The government’s attempt to help more people out of private renting arrangements and into home ownership comes after Scottish Widows published a report that warned tomorrow’s pensioners will have to find huge amounts of money to pay ever-escalating rents to private landlords.

Scottish Widows projected one in eight retirees will be renting by 2032, which works out to three times the number renting today. It also said there is a £43bn gap between the income and savings people have now and what the rent bill will be in retirement.

Speaking to the Guardian, Dan Wilson Craw of campaign group Generation Rent said: “The common perception is that retirees either own their home outright or have a council tenancy, so the government will be in for a nasty shock as more of us retire and continue to rent from a private landlord.

“Many renters relying on pensions will qualify for housing benefit which will put greater strain on the public finances.”

The Rent Recognition Challenge will open to applications early in the New Year, and development will conclude in October 2018.