Exclusive: DJI’s Releasing an Agriculture Drone

A colleague and reported today that DJI, the world’s biggest drone maker, is releasing a crop-spraying drone.

The story begins:

China’s SZ DJI Technology Co., the world’s top consumer-drone maker, is setting its sights on the agriculture industry with the launch of a crop sprayer that will test whether farming is fertile ground for drone technology.

DJI, which helped kick-start the global craze for drones with its $1,000 easy-to-fly devices, will on Friday unveil an eight-rotor drone priced at roughly $15,000 that is designed to spray pesticides on crops, a spokesman said. DJI said the drone, which has a 2.6-gallon spray tank and a typical takeoff weight of 49 pounds, can fly for about 12 minutes.

It can spray pesticides on seven to 10 acres of farmland per hour, depending on how much it needs to climb, descend or turn to follow the terrain.

The battery-powered DJI Agras MG-1 will be available first in China and South Korea, though the company didn’t specify exactly when it would go on sale. In China, DJI is taking preorders starting on Friday. The drone is expected to be available in other markets later, the company said.



Scoop: Facebook Eyeing Asia for Instant Articles Ad Platform

A colleague and I reported earlier this week that Facebook’s looking at Asia to launch its Instant Articles advertising platform.

The story begins:

Facebook Inc. is laying the groundwork to expand its Instant Articles service in Asia, underscoring the extent to which it considers populous emerging markets as it implements new features.

The world’s largest social network has in recent weeks advertised job openings via its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore for contractors who will work with “new publishers to begin developing Instant Articles” and “provide direct support to publishers” who use the service. The jobs call for candidates who can speak Thai or Vietnamese.

Instant Articles allow media companies to publish material directly on Facebook, rather than as links to their sites. Facebook says these articles load ten times faster than standard articles on mobile phones. The company launched Instant Articles in the U.S. in May and in India last week.


The ‘Zoolander 2’ Trailer is Out

And it does not disappoint.*

Spoiler alert: Mugatu is back. And he still has exceedingly high latte standards.

*Assuming that you are, as I am, a huge fan of the original flick.


Video: New York to SF by Train

NY–SF by train from Tom Harman on Vimeo.

Tom Harman writes:

A 3-day journey across the US on Amtrak in September, 2015. Everything was shot on the train with an iPhone6+ and edited in iMovie.


States traveled through include:
New York*



File Under: Whoops

The AP reports:

An error by race organisers has turned Bangkok into the home of the world’s longest half-marathon.

Instead of a 13-mile run through Thailand’s capital, the Standard Chartered Bangkok marathon on Sunday accidentally extended its annual half-marathon to almost 17 miles.

The bonus miles came as a surprise to runners, who unleashed a tirade of complaints on social media after the event.

The Jogging Association of Thailand, one of two organisers of the race, admitted to the error on Monday.

“The association apologises for the mistake,” Songrakm Kraison, its vice-president, told the Associated Press. “It will not happen again in the future.”


There’s more over at Asian Correspondent.


By Me Yesterday: ‘What the New H-1B Visa Reform Bill Could Mean for Indian Outsourcers’

The story begins:

Life could get tougher for Indian outsourcing firms that do business in the U.S. and for Indians who want to get visas to work there.

A key part of India’s outsourcing industry has long been to send thousands of its information-technology engineers and programmers to the U.S. on skilled-worker permits known as H-1B visas.

But two U.S. senators are renewing their efforts to force employers to try to hire Americans first before foreign workers.

Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin last week introduced a bill that would require all companies that want to hire workers under H-1Bs to first try to hire U.S. citizens.


Richard Scarry, 1963 vs. 1991

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These photos from Flickr user alan taylor show how editions of the popular book for children, “Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever,” changed between 1963 and 1991.

Males in the kitchen, less overtly obedient kids, fewer “handsome” airline pilots, the addition of menorahs, gender neutral professional titles and more.

A fascinating study.

Via Kottke. There’s more over at Fusion.


By Me Yesterday: ‘Flush Indian Startups Face Shortage of Skilled Workers’

The story begins:

BANGALORE, India—Software engineer Anshul Goel graduated from college in 2013. In the 2½ years since then, the 24-year-old has switched jobs three times, jumping from one Indian tech company to another, and doubled his salary.

Mr. Goel, who specializes in writing code that e-commerce startups and others use to predict customer behavior, says he is deluged with emails from headhunters. “My mailbox is full of them,” he said. “And it’s not only me.”

Indian startups, flush with cash from foreign venture capitalists, have been on a hiring spree as they race to scale up and beat rivals in an increasingly competitive market. Venture capitalists have poured some $4.54 billion into India’s startups so far this year, surpassing the $4 billion invested last year, says Indian data tracker Venture Intelligence. But a shortage of skilled workers is driving up wages and turning into a serious hurdle to companies’ expansion plans.

The country is home to millions of information-technology workers, veterans of India’s huge outsourcing industry. But, tech executives say, few of them have the cutting-edge abilities that startups in businesses from e-commerce to ride-booking apps crave.

I also wrote a post at our Digits blog about perks some workers are securing:

Free rides to work, cool offices with tasty food, new smartphones — it’s a good time to be a talented software engineer in India.


Stories this Week: Google’s Android One and Project Loon in India

A scoop by a colleague and me earlier this week: Google’s taking another shot at low-cost smartphone success in India.

The story begins:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google helped launch a line of low-cost smartphones in India more than a year ago, part of a strategy to win more customers in fast-growing emerging markets. It was a flop.

Now, the tech giant is trying again by relaxing its rules, giving phone makers more latitude when it comes to features and price.

Google and India’s Lava International Ltd. plan to release a new low-cost smartphone in the coming months as part of the Android One program, people familiar with the matter say. The initiative aims to give users in developing economies an inexpensive way to get online through its Android mobile operating system.

Separately, I wrote an explainer: “Five Things to Know About Google’s Android One.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick post I wrote about the search giant targeting India for its stratospheric Internet balloons effort, Project Loon:

Google parent company Alphabet Inc. says it is discussing with the Indian government an ambitious project to use high-altitude balloons to provide Internet access in remote areas, the latest sign of U.S. tech firms’ interest in the world’s second-most-populous country.

Known as Project Loon, the Alphabet plan involves a network of balloons floating in the stratosphere that would serve as “floating mobile-phone towers.” The initiative is meant to connect people who now lack online access.


Rise of the ‘Coyowolf’ — Part Wolf, Part Dog, Part Coyote

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The Economist reports:

Like some people who might rather not admit it, wolves faced with a scarcity of potential sexual partners are not beneath lowering their standards. It was desperation of this sort, biologists reckon, that led dwindling wolf populations in southern Ontario to begin, a century or two ago, breeding widely with dogs and coyotes. The clearance of forests for farming, together with the deliberate persecution which wolves often suffer at the hand of man, had made life tough for the species. That same forest clearance, though, both permitted coyotes to spread from their prairie homeland into areas hitherto exclusively lupine, and brought the dogs that accompanied the farmers into the mix.

Interbreeding between animal species usually leads to offspring less vigorous than either parent—if they survive at all. But the combination of wolf, coyote and dog DNA that resulted from this reproductive necessity generated an exception. The consequence has been booming numbers of an extraordinarily fit new animal (see picture) spreading through the eastern part of North America. Some call this creature the eastern coyote. Others, though, have dubbed it the “coywolf”. Whatever name it goes by, Roland Kays of North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, reckons it now numbers in the millions.

Fascinating stuff. It’s not every day, as the story says, that scientists are able to witness a new species being formed.

There’s more from Smithsonian.com and Fusion. PBS even has an infographic.

Related Newley.com post from 2013: What Domesticating Siberian Foxes May Tell Us About Dogs:

The gist: Over the course of more than 40 years, scientists took normal foxes, which were aggressive toward humans, and looked for the tamest ones.

Then they bred them.

In just a few generations, the foxes — animals that would typically attack humans when threatened — had become completely tame creatures that snuggled the scientists rather than biting their hands.

What’s more, over time, the foxes started to look like…dogs.

Cute dogs.

To take this one step further, friends, I ask you: Can it be long before people start trying to domesticate coyowolves?

Maybe it’s already happening?

Would they domesticate more quickly than wolves or coyotes, due to their canine DNA?


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