DIY UAVs

I am late to this party, but this nugget was one of the few things that stuck in my mind from the morning talk I attended at Google DC.  They hosted Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired, and author of Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price, to discuss his book.  It’s out today, and you can get some editions of the book for free.  There’s a fair amount of hullabaloo online about the book that I’m just not that excited about.  I chalk this up to following issues related to digital pricing, and how best to extract money from low-cost, widely available information since I worked on satellite imagery issues years ago.  That and reading what amounted to Anderson’s book proposal in the March 2008 issue of Wired.

For me the most interesting part of the event was the question and answer session, where, among other things, Anderson noted that he was in the drone business.  Having started by programming Lego Mindstorm robotics to control RC aircraft, the efforts have expanded pretty significantly, including a DIY group and autopilots now available for sale.  From what Anderson said this morning, these efforts do not run afoul of the law (though the fully assembled drones could not be freely exported as they would be considered weapons).  They still made me pause, for as he wrote:

“As exciting as that it is, it’s also sobering to know that a technology that was just a few years ago the sole domain of the military is now within the reach of amateurs, so we spend a lot of time educating our community on FAA regulations and safe and responsible flying (always under 400 feet, stay within line of sight, pilot always able to regain control).”

Final NIH Stem Cell Guidance Released; Old Lines Have a Chance

Yesterday the National Insitutes of Health issued its final guidelines for human stem cell research, following on the draft guidelines issued in April.  At the time, it seemed that the regulations would restrict even more stem cell lines than under previous guidance, due to strict standards of informed consent that cannot be retroactively applied.  Had this gone through, it would have been an interesting situation, where a different set of values – strong support of informed consent – would have restricted research after lifting a ban based on a set of values.

However, it appears that there will be a process for considering existing stem cell lines, including those approved under the guidelines of President Bush, as eligible for further funding.  This will not be a blanket grandfathering process, but a review of each line and the underlying consent and other procedures that produced the line.  The reviewers will come from the NIH (Acting) Director’s advisory committee.  Any lines approved for further funding will be placed on a stem cell registry, which should be available by sometime in September.

More information on NIH stem cell policies is available online.