How Drones and M&M’s are Being Used to Save Endangered Ferrets

By: Kassidy Coleman

At NewsWatch we’re huge drone lovers – they’re cool and a ton of fun to play around with. But we love them even more when we see that they’re doing something to help people or animals. Remember when drones were being used to detect sharks? Well, now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are using drones to dispense M&M’s in order to save the endangered black-footed ferrets in Montana.


Wondering what’s so special about the black-footed ferret? They’re North America’s only native ferret, and they are totally dependent on prairie dogs for both their food and shelter. Unfortunately, prairie dogs and the black-footed ferrets are susceptible to and are being killed by the sylvatic plague, which is a disease that has been spread by fleas and rats since the 1800’s.


Alright, so you’re probably still curious about how M&M’s could possibly save these furry critters. Well, biologists have developed a vaccination for the sylvatic plague, and are able to get it to the black-footed ferrets due to their small population, but have been facing difficulties getting the vaccination out over the large span of land the prairie dogs cover. If the prairie dogs die, the black-footed ferret will likely go extinct. This is where the drones and M&M’s come in. These special M&Ms are coated with peanut butter and the sylvatic plague vaccine. Randy Machett, a FWS biologist reportedly described the technology they plan to use as a “glorified gumball machine” that will be able to use GPS to locate prairie dog populations and drop 3,000 M&M vaccines an hour – up to 20 times more efficient than if biologists were to distribute the vaccine by hand. And according to The Guardian, the animals find this bait very delicious.


Some farmers consider prairie dogs and the black-footed ferret to be pests and are even upset about the plan to save them. However, many other animals, such as coyotes, eagles, and owls rely on them for survival – meaning the disappearance of them could have detrimental effects on other species.


The plan hasn’t been officially approved yet, but Machett is expecting it to be approved and in full operation by September 1, 2016.

What do you think about using drones to save the black-footed ferret? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter!

Want more drones? Check these out:




Detecting Sharks with Drones | NewsWatch Shark Week

By: Kassidy Coleman

According to National Geographic, around the world last year there were 98 shark attacks, including six human fatalities, which ended up being a new record. But why the sudden increase of attacks and how do we prevent them from happening? Well, The International Shark Attack File says that there are a few reasons shark attacks increased, included global warming, lack of storms, and just more vacationers going to the beach. Regardless of why these attacks happen, researchers at Duke University and UNC are looking for a way to keep beach goers safer when on the beach by using drone technology to detect where sharks are in the water.




Of course the best way to avoid shark attacks would be to completely abstain from getting into the water…but we all know that’s not very fun. Luckily these researchers figured out how to use drones to watch out for sharks for us. The study, which has been funded by the North Carolina Aquariums, has been going on for over a year. Dave Johnston, a Marine Lab assistant professor from Duke University stated, “This is one of the first studies aimed at how we are able to detect sharks.”


To see how reliable their drones were, the researchers ended up creating decoy sharks out of wood. After a year of experimenting, the researchers say it looks promising. The drones can detect sharks when they are about a meter deep in the water, even when the water is murky. Johnston hopes that soon drone technology will be able to tell beachgoers where there are sharks in the water, and thus reduce shark attacks.


Drone technology is also being used in a similar fashion to study and track sea turtles, seals, and debris on more remote beaches. Although this technology probably won’t be something used at beaches for awhile, we definitely think it’s pretty cool to see drones being used in this way.


How else do you think drone technology could be used to benefit the study of animals? Let us know in the comments below or join in the conversation on Twitter!


Check these out:

Wearable Technology…for Sharks? 

Microsoft Pays out $10,000 for Pushing Windows 10

5 New Rules for Commercial Drones – Bad News for Amazon

By: Kassidy Coleman

If you were excited about the possibility of Amazon or Walmart using drones to deliver their products, we have some bad news for you. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just set the first operational rules for commercial drones which pretty much make it so we won’t be getting anything delivered via drone.

The good news is at least the laws are starting to catch up to the technology that we have. These rules are finally laying some very important framework for commercial drone operation. The bad is, well, we probably won’t be able to get anything delivered by a drone in the near future.

The rules are to take effect in late August.

  1. Drones need to remain in the line of sight for their pilots – This is pretty much what makes it impossible for drone delivery to work. There’s no way Amazon or Walmart will be able to ensure that the drones are constantly in their line of sight.
  2. The maximum speed for the drones is 100 mph while the maximum altitude 400 feet. The speed limit isn’t too terrible; most drones can’t even fly nearly that fast. While the drone is in the air it must not be over “unprotected people.
  3. Pilots must be at least 16 years old and have passed an aeronautical test and remote flying certificate. This is only for commercial drones. Hobbyists are still allowed to fly drones without a license.
  4. There will also be TSA background checks for all drone pilots. This is a safety precaution to deter drone terrorism.
  5. New rules have extended flying into twilight as long as it has anti-collision lights. Current rules had restricted commercial drone flying to daytime use only.

According to Mashable, the FAA is currently working on building an online waiver portal for companies to apply for waivers to certain restrictions, if they are able to prove they can still fly the drones safely. So there’s still some hope for Amazon!

We’re pretty disappointed that commercial drones won’t be delivering our Amazon packages anytime soon, but we’re still glad that there are rules to make everything safer for everyone.

What do you think about the new rules the FAA has established? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter!


Check these out!

What You Need to Know About the Future of Transportation

Drones for the Every Man


10 Tech Gifts for Father’s Day

Stumped on what to give dad for Father’s Day this year? We know that dads can be stressful to shop for. But seriously, don’t give Dad another tie this year. Here are 10 gifts your dad will love.

  1. Black Diamond Ember Power Light Flashlight, $37.46 – You can’t go wrong with this gift and Dad will be sure to take it everywhere with him. This isn’t just a regular old flashlight that your father only takes out when the power goes out. This swipe-activated TriplePower LED also has an integrated USB port, so Dad can keep his devices charged while on the road.


2. ThinkGeek Dual Heated Travel Mug, $9.99- Nobody wants cold coffee unless it was intentional. Seriously, if you’ve drank cooled-off coffee when you thought it was still hot, it isn’t a pleasant taste. This Dual Heated Travel Mug by ThinkGeek can be plugged into your cigarette lighter in your car or in a USB port in your computer to ensure Dad’s coffee is kept at perfect drinking temperature.


3. Netflix Subscription for 1 Year – $96 – Dad will seriously thank you for this one. There’s something for any Dad to watch – from the classics to new Netflix Original Series, streaming video will be sure to keep Dad entertained. If he’s not a fan of streaming, there is still a DVD option.


aerix drones4. AERIX Drones Nano Drone for Beginner – $40 – Drones have been becoming more and more popular, but with the higher-end prices of some of them it can be discouraging for some to get involved. This drone is perfect for beginners. Dad will have fun playing with this quadrocopter and the built-in impact guards and landing skids help keep your surroundings safe while Dad learns how to fly it.


idevices5. iDevices iGrill Mini – $56.51- Does your dad like to grill? The iGrill2 is a Bluetooth Smart meat thermometer that makes grilling so much easier. This allows Dad to come back and join the party while monitoring the temperature of the meat from his mobile device. He’ll even get a notification when it’s time to take the meat off the grates!


rokubox6. Roku 3 – $70 – Give your dad the gift of entertainment. This is the most powerful Roku player, allowing him to enjoy over 2,000       streaming channels that access more than 250,000 movies, TV, games, music, sports, and more. With headphones for private listening, voice search, and more, Dad will have a ton of fun finding stuff to watch.


kindlefire7. Amazon Fire – $39 for Father’s Day – This inexpensive tablet was designed specifically for entertainment. Dad will be able to read, watch, and play on this fast tablet. The 7” touchscreen is perfect for taking on the-go or watching at home. The battery life lasts up to 7 hours so Dad can read, watch video, surf the web, and listen to music for an extended time.


belkin8. The Belkin WeMo Switch – $34.99 – This smart switch will let Dad be able to control his home electronics from pretty much anywhere on his Android or iOS phone or tablet. Turn electronics on or off or even set up a schedule from anywhere as long as there is Wi-Fi or 4G access. He can even set it up for lights to turn on and off while away to mimic occupancy.


blossom9. Blossom 8 Smart Watering Controller – $99 – Is your dad obsessed with his lawn? Help him simplify his life with Smart Watering. Blossom does pretty much all the work by self-programming based on real-time weather data. Dad can have total control right from your phone, ultimately lowering his water bill up to 35%.


fitbit10. Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch – $196.99 – Is your father a fitness addict? The Fitbit Blaze can track everything you’d expect in a fitness tracker – steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, and active minutes. But it can also track sleep, give text & calendar notifications, and track all-day activities. You can also completely customize it with interchangeable band, frames, and clock faces on this high-res color touchscreen. Help Dad achieve his goals in style!


Are there any tech gifts for dads you think should have been included in the list? Comment below or join the conversation on Twitter!




What You Need to Know About the Future of Transportation

By: Kassidy Coleman

Whether or not you’ve realized it, there is a transportation revolution going on right now. From cars that drive themselves to supersonic travel, we have definitely been seeing more futuristic transportation methods being tested this year. But just in case you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a little bit about what’s been going on in the world of transportation.


  1. Super Sonic Travel

Hyperloop-esc_2640932bThe Hyperloop system has promised super fast, efficient transportation by eliminating the barriers of time and distance. The main company working on the full-scale Hyperloop system, Hyperloop One, has been working on the project since 2013.  Well, the concept has been around since 2013…they only finally got to start testing it this year. You can see it being tested out here. In early May, the startup announced the project has raised $100 million. The plan is that one day this 5th form of transport will be able someday transport both cargo and people in a tunnel at the speed of sound (roughly 750 miles per hour). It is looking like this will one day be considered a normal form of transportation, although it is still in a testing and development stage. Hyperloop hopes that one day you will be able to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in only 30 minutes. Not only is it super-fast, but it wouldn’t crash, due to it running on computer programs that would completely eliminate human error.


2. Cars that Drive Themselves

(Photo source: Google/YouTube)

We’re expecting Google’s self-driving cars to be available relatively soon. Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt recently stated that it’s hard to know when these cars will be available, but mostly due to having to get them regulated, not because we don’t have the technology. He expects the technology to be ready in years, not decades. Google has been working on the driverless car project for over seven years and has made tremendous progress since the project first started. As of March 2016, these self-driving cars have driven over 1,498,214 miles. The driverless cars obey the speed limit, maintain their distance from other vehicles, and they have even learned when and how to honk. There are still some concerns about these cars getting into a few accidents, obviously there are a few things to kink out, but we can definitely expect these to become a reality in the somewhat near future.


3. Drones that Drive You to Your Destination

(Photo source: EHANG/YouTube)

Have you ever thought about how convenient it would be to just take a drone to your destination? Well you might be able to soon. A drone taxi has been cleared for testing in Nevada. The EHang 184 is a drone that can carry one passenger on short rides. The drone was first introduced at CES 2016, and this technology blew everyone’s mind. The Guardian  reported that this is the “world’s first passenger drone capable of autonomously carrying a person in the air for 23 minutes.” The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) have officially approved for this taxi-drone to be tested. Right now the technology can only carry one passenger for flights of about 23 minutes and reach speeds up to 63 miles per hour. The experience for a passenger would be a simple one – You don’t have to have a license, there are no steering wheels or controls, literally all you have to do is sit back and relax while it takes you to your destination.

Are you excited to take a trip in one (or all) of these new forms of transportation? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter!

%d bloggers like this: