Unmanned Systems Technology 033 l SubSeaSail Gen6 USSV l Servo actuators focus l UAVs insight l Farnborough 2020 update l Transforma XDBOT l Strange Development REVolution l Radio telemetry focus

21 geospatial data service providers, which still operate in Switzerland. As he recounts, “I’d long had a fascination with mapping. It is kind of an intersection between aviation and computer science – how you get to the right altitudes and places, how you orient yourself and make sure the imagery stitches together to actually create high- quality maps through photogrammetry.” Mapping for Microsoft After summer internships at Microsoft in Washington state in 2006 and 2007, he accepted an offer to work full-time there and moved to the US. He began working on Microsoft’s Virtual Earth mapping initiative project (which would later become Bing Maps), programming software for both the back end and the customer-facing side of the product. “I’m still friends with many of the people from those days,” he says. “Gur Kimchi, for example, who was one of the three people who started Virtual Earth and would later go on to co-found Amazon Air, has been a consistent influence and frequent collaborator with me on several projects.” Over time, Buchmueller transitioned to working on augmented reality projects. That culminated in the Microsoft HoloLens and its associated services, such as matching query pictures of landmarks to a database of billions of pictures, to answer questions on the pictures. Pioneering UAV photogrammetry In late 2012 he was recruited by Amazon, which wanted him to create a product recognition solution for the Amazon Go stores (where customers would walk in, grab the products they wanted, and walk out while being automatically charged). For this he applied the lessons he had learned developing computer vision at Microsoft. “Before that though, in the fortnight before joining Amazon, I’d gone with a friend to Hawaii for a personal project with a quadcopter drone kit from Team Blacksheep, to experiment with mapping using a point-and-shoot camera.” The pair aimed to disprove the widely held myth at the time that Lidar was always necessary to generate aerial 3D models. “I felt Lidar was excessively heavy and energy-inefficient for airborne operations,” he says. “My hunch was that even consumer-grade cameras could create matches using the overlaps and common features between photographs, basically creating a self-adjusting and highly accurate model of the world.” Having put markers on the ground all around the Iolani Palace in Honolulu at known distances between them, and uploading custom firmware to control the camera’s shutter, they were able to program-in these distances to build their 3D model of the area. The result had a margin of error just below 0.5% (equating to about 2 cm), definitively meeting the standards for commercial geo-surveying requirements in most places at the time. Founding Amazon Prime Air In early 2013, after relating this trip to Kimchi – particularly the tremendous stability afforded by the quadcopter’s distributed lift architecture – Buchmueller posited that one day, UAVs would be used to save people or deliver medicines and other life-saving goods, just like the Rega helicopters that had captured his fascination as a child. “And indeed, Rega uses UAVs for search & rescue missions today,” Buchmueller notes. “So after our conversation, Kimchi and I were motivated to write a proposal to Jeff [Bezos] – as is standard for suggesting new Daniel Buchmueller | In conversation Unmanned Systems Technology | August/September 2020 Buchmueller co-founded Amazon Prime’s delivery UAV initiative, and led the r&d from its development centre in Cambridge, UK (Courtesy of Amazon Prime Air)