Mobile Digest: FAA launches commercial-drone era with new Part 107 Rule

YouTube introduces live streaming on its mobile app, as the FAA sets new rules for commercial drone operation. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the News

Drones, take flight! The Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial drone rules have materialized at last, paving the way for businesses in the U.S. to go mobile in a radical new way. The Part 107 Rule allows commercial entities to fly drones up to 100 miles per hour and up to an altitude of 400 feet anywhere in the nation’s airspace. 

Applications run the gamut from mapping and surveying (think agribusiness and mining) to construction planning and even tourism (like remote tours of distant locations). Drones also have huge potential for commercial deliveries for companies like Amazon, but Part 107 doesn’t address those. The FAA has promised separate regulation on package delivery later this year.

Companies that want to put drones to work will need to employ operators with a remote aircraft certificate approved for an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Drones can weigh up to 55 pounds. Rules take effect end of August.

In the money

Chinese Internet company Tencent shelled out $8.6 billion to buy SuperCell, the Finnish makers of mobile gaming app Clash of Clans. Tencent is no newcomer to the entertainment space; it also owns League of Legends, a 25% share in World of Warcraft and more than 300 Japanese anime franchises. Chinese rivals Baidu and Alibaba are on high alert.

In other news

The virtual reality pipeline churned out its next big arrival: the long-awaited Gear 360 went on sale at the VidCon conference in Anaheim, California. The virtual reality camera pairs with Samsung smartphones via WiFi direct and uses its front and rear wide-angle lens to create seamless spherical videos and photos on the phone. Price is set at $350, in the same ball park as a GoPro, although it’s unclear when sales will go nationwide.

Now all eyes turn to the PlayStation VR headset, which is set for release in October and which research firm TrendForce believes will put a major beatdown on its competitors 2016. TrendForce released a report last week that projects PlayStation to command 67 percent of the VR market once it launches. That’s based on impressive preorder numbers and the popularity of the upcoming PlayStation 4 gaming console — an advantage that rivals Oculus Rift and HTC Vive can’t match. TrendForce projects global VR shipments to hit 9 million in 2016.

At the World Wide Developer Conference, Apple used its keynote to launch updated operating systems across its mobile offerings, from iOS to watchOS to tvOS. iOS 10 features a cool new Messages platform that allows users to hand scribble notes on the screen and send stickers. It also allows third-party developers to build apps that integrate digital assistant Siri. Apple also launched a new Home app that allows users to manage all smart home apps built on HomeKit (from lights to garage to heating and cooling) in one easy interface.

On the mobile payment front, Apple Pay will soon function as a virtual ATM card in the U.S. Apple is integrating Apple Pay compatibility to 5000 ATMs around the country in 2016, and has already started in San Francisco and Raleigh Durham, NC. Users will be able to access bank ATMs and withdrawal cash without producing a physical card.

Samsung Pay launched in Australia, Spain and Singapore. That brings its total markets to six, including the U.S., China, South Korea and Spain. Next up on the 2016 expansion list: Brazil, the U.K. and Canada.

Want to take a live stream viral on YouTube? Soon you’ll be able to — straight from the YouTube mobile app. YouTube is baking a red capture button into the app home screen so that it can better compete with rivals like Facebook, which has launched its own live streaming feature TK. Rollout will start with established YouTube content creators and pass on down to plebs like you and me over the course of 2016. It will include 360-degree live streaming.

Finally, guess who popped up behind the dashboard of a 3D-printed, self-driving car in Maryland last week? Microsoft’s supercomputer Watson. That’s right, the same supercomputer that spent months embarrassing the best and brightest of mankind on the game show Jeopardy! has now integrated itself into a connected car to embarrass Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Now and all the other in-car digital assistants out there. Watson can explain complex moves that the self-driving car is making (like why it swerved or rerouted directions. It can also tell jokes (that are actually funny) and decipher nuances of language.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.