“A drone is a camera,” Ani Acopian begins simply. “And it can fly. It’s basically a flying super-camera! I’d love to see more film and TV productions embrace the nimble and magical nature of drones and use them for more than bird’s eye view establishing shots.”

The director’s video for London-based record label AWAL (Artists Without a Label) unfolds like a minute-long homage to the narrative potential of UAVs. It lifts off from a desk, flies out a sliding-glass window, up over the room, down a stairwell and through a car. There’s a restaurant, some skaters in an empty pool, a parking lot junk yard and a backyard pool party. It’s a bright, sun-shiny picture of Southern California in a time before social distancing turned us all into nocturnal weirdos.

The sequence is stitched together to give the appearance on long shot. That’s particularly the work of some editing magic, which pulled together a still-impressive five shots to create the final product. The result comes in no small part due to the flying of Robert McIntosh. The pilot, who had previously collaborated with director Spike Jonze on the 2012 skate video “Pretty Sweet,” custom built the drone.

Weighing in at 120 grams, it was built by removing the camera from a GoPro Hero 6. That, along with the associated wires, were transferred onto the body of a racing drone. The result was palm-sized and fragile, with a dismal battery life of around three to five minutes a go. But the tiny size also allowed for an extremely nimble flying camera capable of shooting 4K video. The drone was flown at a slow speed, with McIntosh piloting through a pair of FPV racing goggles, with radio guidance from director of photography, Eric Maloney.

Acopian says the nature of the shoot required a fair bit of improvisation on the part of the crew, particularly with some scene utilizing up to 60 extras. Each were given a specific action to perform, while the director sat far away, giving directions through a bullhorn, so as to not be picked up through the camera’s wide-angle lens.

“We weren’t able to rehearse with the cast or block out a flight path with the drone ahead of time,” she explains, “so the biggest challenge was showing up at a new location each morning and figuring out what the drone path, talent blocking and VFX markers would be, then rehearsing as much we could up until around two hours before sundown, at which point we had as many takes as we could fit into that two-hour window to nail the shot. If something wasn’t working, we changed it because otherwise we put the whole scene at risk of not happening.”

Each scene naturally required multiple takes — up to 15 in some cases. And yes, that fragile little drone did crash a few times — though it was mostly no worse for wear.

“There was one crash that gave us all a scare, which happened while filming the scene where a partygoer gets caked,” Acopian adds. “The actress took a step back, directly into the path of the flying drone, and the drone got caught in their hair and turned off. Luckily, she was chill with getting a little bit of her hair snipped off so we could get the drone out, and the guys were able to patch it up in about 20 minutes. Twenty minutes later we were shooting again and she took another cake to the face. A true hero.”

After the shoot, the video was processed through ReelSteady — stabilization software created by McIntosh, which was acquired by GoPro back in March. Then it was effects company Alpha Studios’ job to help stitch things together into one continuous shot.

“We originally wanted to make every transition completely seamless and hidden, but locations and logistics meant that we had to make most of our transitions stylized. We worked closely with Alpha Studios to plot out where one shot would end and where the preceding shot would begin,” producer Jeremiah Warren says. “Kaitlyn Yang, from Alpha Studios, was the on-set VFX supervisor and was key in helping us figure out these transition points that her team blended with VFX in post-production.”

The result is a lovely little glimpse into how drones can extend beyond the customary establishing shot and take a deeper storytelling role in the process.

“I know that the future for droning is very bright, and I anticipate that we’ll start to see drones used in ways that don’t immediately give away their ‘drone-ness,’ like to feign camera movements that would otherwise be difficult to achieve,” says Acopian. “You don’t have to be high to fly! Drones, especially FPV drones, have this fluidity to them that beautifully mirrors the way memories feel to me and I’m excited to see more people play with this to recreate the inner experience so many of us have in a new, relatable way.”

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This has been an incredibly tough week after a string of tough weeks. The killing of George Floyd showed yet again that…

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Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, May 29, 2020

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n","protected":false},"excerpt":{"rendered":"

In a statement posted to Facebook late Friday afternoon, Mark Zuckerberg offered up an explanation of why his company did not contextualize or remove posts from the accounts associated with President Donald Trump that appeared to incite violence against American citizens. “We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to […]

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Jonathan is an editor at TechCrunch. Previously he worked as a senior reporter for Dow Jones & Co., covering venture capital and private equity investment from New York and Shanghai. He can be reached via email at shieber@techcrunch.com.

","cbAvatar":"https://crunchbase-production-res.cloudinary.com/image/upload/v1397186400/66d6a050b319ebf66c9f305da0d6bf2b.png","twitter":"jshieber","_links":{"self":[{"href":"https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/59254947"}],"collection":[{"href":"https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users"}]}}],"author":[{"id":59254947,"name":"Jonathan Shieber","url":"","description":"","link":"https://techcrunch.com/author/jonathan-shieber/","slug":"jonathan-shieber","avatar_urls":{"24":"https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a81fccb1686f7db1afd1c14a019b5bc1?s=24&d=identicon&r=g","48":"https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a81fccb1686f7db1afd1c14a019b5bc1?s=48&d=identicon&r=g","96":"https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a81fccb1686f7db1afd1c14a019b5bc1?s=96&d=identicon&r=g"},"links":{"twitter":"https://twitter.com/jshieber","linkedin":"https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-shieber/0/baa/b27","crunchbase":"https://www.crunchbase.com/person/jonathan-shieber"},"position":"Writer","cbDescription":"

Jonathan is an editor at TechCrunch. Previously he worked as a senior reporter for Dow Jones & Co., covering venture capital and private equity investment from New York and Shanghai. He can be reached via email at shieber@techcrunch.com.

","cbAvatar":"https://crunchbase-production-res.cloudinary.com/image/upload/v1397186400/66d6a050b319ebf66c9f305da0d6bf2b.png","twitter":"jshieber","_links":{"self":[{"href":"https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/59254947"}],"collection":[{"href":"https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users"}]}}],"wp:featuredmedia":[{"id":1993588,"date":"2020-05-26T14:55:35","slug":"president-trump-departs-white-house-for-ford-factory-in-michigan-3","type":"attachment","link":"https://techcrunch.com/president-trump-departs-white-house-for-ford-factory-in-michigan-3/","title":{"rendered":"President Trump Departs White House For Ford Factory In Michigan"},"author":24893112,"license":{"source_key":"getty images","person":"Alex Wong"},"authors":[24893112],"caption":{"rendered":"

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 21: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departing on Marine One May 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump is scheduled to visit a Ford manufacturing plant that is currently producing ventilators in Michigan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Welcome back to Thisu00a0Weeku00a0in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

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The app industry is as hot as ever, withu00a0a recordu00a0204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are nowu00a0spendingu00a0three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps arenu2019t just a way to pass idle hours u2014 theyu2019re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had au00a0combinedu00a0$544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

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In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

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This week weu2019re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications, with fresh data from App Annie about trends playing out across app categories benefiting from the pandemic, lockdowns and societal changes. We’re also keeping up with the COVID-19 contact-tracing apps making headlines, and delving into the week’s other news.

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We saw a few notable new apps launch this week, including HBO’s new streaming service HBO Max, plus three new app experiments from Facebook’s R&D group. Android Studio 4.0 also launched this week. Instagram is getting better AR tools and IGTV is getting ads. TikTok got spammed in India.

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Meanwhile, what is going on with app review? A shady app rises to the top of the iPhone App Store. Google cracks down on conspiracy theory-spreading apps. And a TikTok clone uses a pyramid scheme-powered invite system to rise up the charts.

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COVID-19 contact-tracing apps in the newsu00a0

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  • Latvia: Reuters this week reported that Latvia aims to become one of the first countries to launch a smartphone app, Stop Covid, using the new toolkit created by Apple and Alphabetu2019s Google to help trace coronavirus infections.
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  • Australia: The role of the country’s Covidsafe app in the recovery appears to be marginal, The Guardian reports. In the month since its launch, only one person has been reported to have been identified using data from it. A survey even found that Australians were more supportive of using telecommunications metadata to track close contacts (79%) than they were of downloading an app (69.8%). In a second survey, their support for the app dropped to 64%. The app has been maligned by the public debate over it and technical issues.
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  • France: The country’s data protection watchdog, CNIL, reviewed its contact-tracing app StopCovid, finding there were no major issues with the technical implementation and legal framework around StopCovid, with some caveats. France isn’t using Google and Apple’s contact-tracing API, but instead uses a controversial centralized contact-tracing protocol called ROBERT. This relies on a central server to assign a permanent ID and generate ephemeral IDs attached to this permanent ID. CNIL says the app will eventually be open-sourced and it will create a bug bounty. On Wednesday, the app passed its first vote in favor of its release.
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  • Qatar: Serious security vulnerabilities in Qataru2019s mandatory contact-tracing app were uncovered by Amnesty International. An investigation by Amnestyu2019s Security Lab discovered a critical weakness in the configuration of Qataru2019s EHTERAZ contact-tracing app. Now fixed, the vulnerability would have allowed cyberattackers to access highly sensitive personal information, including the name, national ID, health status and location data of more than one million users.
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  • India: India’s contact-tracing app, Aarogya Setu, is going open-source, according to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney on Tuesday. The code is being published on GitHub. Nearly 98% of the app’s more than 114 million users are on Android. The government will also offer a cash bounty of $1,325 to security experts who find bugs or vulnerabilities.
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  • Switzerland: Several thousand people are now testing a pilot version of Switzerland’s contact-tracing app, SwissCovid. Like Lativia, the app is one of the first to use Apple and Google’s contact-tracing API. Employees at EPFL, ETH Zurich, the Army and select hospitals and government agencies will be the first to test the Swiss app before its public launch planned for mid-June.
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  • China: Chinau2019s health-tracking QR codes, embedded in popular WeChat and Alipay smartphone apps, are raising privacy concerns, Reuters reports. To walk around freely, people must have a green rating. They also now have to present their health QR codes to gain entry into restaurants, parks and other venues. These efforts have been met with little resistance. But the eastern city of Hangzhou has since proposed that users are given a color-coded health badge based on their medical records and lifestyle habits, including how much they exercised, their eating and drinking habits, whether they smoked and how much they slept the night before. This suggestion set off a storm of criticism on China’s Weibo, a Twitter-like platform.
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","protected":false},"excerpt":{"rendered":"

We continue to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile apps, with fresh data from App Annie about trends playing out across app categories benefiting from the pandemic.

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screens Trump’s Minneapolis threat-tweet for glorifying violence"},"content":{"rendered":"

After applying a fact-checking labelu00a0Tuesday to a misleading vote-by-mail tweet made by U.S. President Donald Trump, Twitter is on a roll and has labeled another of the president’s tweets — this time screening his words from casual view with what it calls a “public interest notice” that states the tweet violated its rules about glorifying violence.u00a0

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Here’s how the tweet appears without further interaction (second tweet in the below screengrab):

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The public interest notice replaces the substance of what Trump wrote, meaning a user has to actively click through to view the offending tweet.

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Engagement options are also limited as a result by this label, meaning users can only retweet the offending tweet with a comment; they cannot like it, reply to it or vanilla retweet it.

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Twitter’s notice goes on to explain why it has not removed the offending tweet entirely — and this is where the public interest element of the policy kicks in — with the company writing: “Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”u00a0

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Twitter appears to be shrugging off the president’s decision yesterday to sign an executive order targeting the legal shield that internet companies rely on to protect them from liability for user-created content — doubling down on displeasing Trump, who has accused social media platforms generally of deliberately suppressing conservative views despite plenty of evidence that ad-targeting platform algorithms actually boost outrage-fuelled content and views — which tends, conversely, to amplify conservative viewpoints.

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In the latest clash, Trump had tweeted in reference to violent demonstrations taking place in Minneapolis sparked by the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer — with the president claiming that “THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd” before threatening to send in the “Military.”

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“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Trump added — making a bald threat to use military force against civilians.

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Twitter has wrestled with the issue of how to handle world leaders who break its content rules for years. Most often as a result of Trump, who routinely uses its platform to bully all manner of targets — from rival politicians to hated journalists, disobedient business leaders and even actors who displease him — as well as to dispense direct and sometimes violent threats.

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Since being elected, Trump has also used Twitter’s global platform as a foreign policy weapon, firing military threats at the likes of North Korea and Iran in tweet form.

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Back in 2018, for example, he teased North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with button-pushing nuclear destruction (see below tweet) — before going on to “fall in love” with the dictator when he met him in person.

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Twitter’s go-to defence for not taking offending Trump tweets down in the past has been that, as U.S. president, the substance of what the man tweets — however mad, bad and dangerous — is inherently newsworthy.

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However, more recently, the company has created a policy tool that allows it to intervene — defining terms last summer around “public interest” content on Twitter.

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It warned then (almost a full year ago, in June 2019) that it might place a public interest notice on tweets that would otherwise violate its rules (and therefore merit a takedown) — in order to “to provide additional context and clarity,” rather than removing the offensive tweet.

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Fast forward a year and the tech giant has started applying labels to Trump’s tweets — beginning with a fact-check label earlier this week, related to the forthcoming U.S. election, and following up now with a public interest notice related to Trump glorifying violence.

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So, finally, the tech giant seems to be inching toward drawing a limit-line around Trump in near real time.

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Explaining its decision to badge the U.S. president’s threat to order the military to shoot looters in Minneapolis, the company writes: “This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

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“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” Twitter goes on.

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It also links to its policy against tweets that glorify violence — which states unequivocally [in bold]: “You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people.”

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Back in June, when Twitter announced the “abusive behavior” label, it also warned that tweets that get screened with a public interest notice will not benefit from any algorithmic acceleration, writing: “Weu2019ll also take steps to make sure the Tweet is not algorithmically elevated on our service, to strike the right balance between enabling free expression, fostering accountability and reducing the potential harm caused by these Tweets.”

n

However the newsworthiness of Twitter’s decision to finally apply its own rules vis-a-vis Trump will ensure there’s plenty of non-algorithmic amplification (and no little irony).

n

We reached out to the company with questions about its decision to apply a public interest screen on Trump’s latest tweet but at the time of writing it had not responded.

n

On Wednesday night, Twitter CEO and co-founder, Jack Dorsey, put out a series of tweets defending its decision to apply a fact-check label to Trump’s earlier misleading tweets about vote-by-mail.

n

“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth,'” wrote Dorsey. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”

n

n

n

n

Dorsey’s remarks followed pointed comments made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Fox News, seeking to contrast Facebook’s claimed “neutrality” when policing its platform with Twitteru2019s policy of taking a stance on issues such as political advertising (which Twitter does not allow).

n

u201cI just believe strongly that Facebook shouldnu2019t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,u201d Zuckerberg told the conservative news station. u201cPrivate companies u2026 especially these platform companies, shouldnu2019t be in the position of doing that.u201d

n

It’s notable that Dorsey used Zuckerberg’s exact turn of phrase — u201carbiter of truthu201d — to reject Facebook’s attack on Twitter’s policy as a straw man argument.

n

Update I, Trump reacts: In early reaction to Twitter’s move the Trump administration has now quote-retweeted the offending tweet from the official White House Twitter account — reamplifying the president’s violent threat.

n

n

n

n

Trump has also reiterated his threat to regulate social media by revoking Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in a new series of tweets this morning — accusing Twitter of ignoring “lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party.”

n

n

n

n

Update II, Whack-a-mole: Twitter has now screened the quote-tweeted copy of Trump’s tweet that the administration sent from the White House Twitter account.

n

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When news brokeu00a0Friday morning that Britain is looking to propose an alliance of democracies to build a 5G alternative to Huawei, you might think that that was the worst thing to happen to the controversial Chinese telecoms giant this week. In fact, it just caps off a series of fast-moving events that surely makes this one of the most decisive weeks yet in the global fight over next-generation 5G networks.

n

So letu2019s go back a step. After all, readers who have been following the Huawei debate might recall that not long ago the UK had controversially agreed to allow Huawei to attain up to 35% market share in u201cnon-core areasu201d of its 5G network. So what was behind Londonu2019s sudden about-face?

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The answer is politics. There was always a loud group of China-skeptic dissenters in Parliament, but anger over Chinau2019s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic pushed more MPs from Prime Minister Boris Johnsonu2019s own Conservative Party into the anti-Huawei camp and made the governmentu2019s position untenable. Rather than face a large parliamentary rebellion and possible legislative defeat later this year, Johnson instead gave in and announced plans earlier this week to phase out Huawei’s participation in Britainu2019s 5G network by 2023.

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Now, Johnson seems to be going a step further. Reports indicate that he is seeking to organize fellow G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States, as well as Australia, South Korea, and India on the issue. Skeptics of the U.S. campaign against Huawei have long lamented that Washington is asking governments to oppose Huawei without proposing a viable alternative. Londonu2019s so-called D10 alliance is the first attempt to explicitly try to answer that question.

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Meanwhile on the legal front, British Columbia’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that proceedings to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to the United States could go ahead. Instead of being released and on her way back to China, Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is now one step closer to facing trial in the U.S. on fraud charges relating to Huaweiu2019s circumvention of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

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Huawei is used to geopolitical maneuvering, of course. After all, its plans to build an underseas cable last year connecting Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands with high speed internet were preempted when Australia, wary of growing Chinese influence in its South Pacific backyard, offered to pay for it instead.

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When the Chinese ambassador to Denmark threatened to scuttle a trade deal with the Faroe Islands, a semi-autonomous Danish region, if Denmark didnu2019t choose it for its 5G network, Copenhagen responded by issuing tough new security requirements that Huawei has said would give it no choice but to leave the country entirely. And as I wrote in March, the question of Huawei has been increasingly debated at the highest levels of government around the world.

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Yet, this week does seem to mark a dramatic turning point in the global 5G battle.

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First, even limited access to the UK market had been a coup for Huawei. With its well-regarded Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, Britain’s seal of approval was a valuable signal to other governments on the fence about whether or not Huawei is worth the security risk. For Britain to not only reverse itself but then take the lead on coordinating an international alternative just a few days later marks a remarkable course correction.

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A former British diplomat told me in March that the Westu2019s lack of cooperation on the issue was u201ca striking failureu201d of political coordination. Thatu2019s certainly not the case anymore u2013u00a0and as other NATO, EU, and Five Eye intelligence allies consider whether or not to permit Huawei themselves, the existence of a democratic anti-Huawei consortium (should it truly develop) would make it that much harder for them to justify going against the U.S.

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Second, the Meng case might be soundly based in international law, but to paraphrase Clausewitz: itu2019s international relations by other means. After all, U.S. investigators, concerned that Huawei was acting as an arm of the Chinese government, had been looking for an excuse to file charges against the company for years. Fittingly enough, the charges against Meng were linked to an unrelated geopolitical issue: violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

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A defeat for the U.S. in the British Columbia Supreme Court would have struck a blow to the U.S. governmentu2019s attempts to extend its legal reach around the globe. Instead, its victory solidifies an already escalating global sanctions regime that is proving devastating for any company caught in its dragnet. As if the Meng case werenu2019t enough, TSMC, one of the worldu2019s largest semiconductors contractors, also announced that it would no longer sell to Huawei in order to comply with new US export controls.

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The question is thus: if this does mark a turning point in the US-China global tech rivalry, what will the next stage look like?

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Given its history, thereu2019s not much suspense in what the Trump administration will likely do next. Certainly it will keep pursuing Huawei’s Meng in court. And count on a new round of pressure in Europe as the EU deadline for members to stake out their 5G security protocols fast approaches this summer. Butu00a0Americau2019s 5G diplomatic push has been seen as tone deaf in European capitalsu00a0u2013 now that Britain is onside, Washington would be smart to let London take the lead.

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How China responds is the more important question. Its continued strong and vocal support for Huawei should be assumed, but what form will it take? Huaweiu2019s conciliatory approach in the UK has now clearly failed. But so too did its attempts to strong-arm Denmark. Will the gloves now come off? Or will Beijing be forced to distance itself from its national champion for Huaweiu2019s own good?

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Huawei has tried to have it both ways, benefiting from the support it draws from the Chinese government while assuring foreign governments of its independence at the same time. But as global public opinionu00a0harden against Beijing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Western nations take stronger actions against his company, Huawei CEO Ren might consider just how hazardous being yoked to a superpower can be.

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When news brokeu00a0Friday morning that Britain is looking to propose an alliance of democracies to build a 5G alternative to Huawei, you might think that that was the worst thing to happen to the controversial Chinese telecoms giant this week. In fact, it just caps off a series of fast-moving events that surely makes this […]

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Danny is Managing Editor at TechCrunch, where he covers technology, power, and startup growth. Previously, he was a foreign correspondent at TechCrunch based in Seoul, South Korea as well as a venture capitalist with General Catalyst in Palo Alto and Charles River Ventures in Boston and New York. He was awarded a Fulbright research scholarship to South Korea, where he researched the development of Koreau2019s startup ecosystem. He is a PhD dropout from Harvard where he studied public policy and an honors graduate of Stanford, where he studied mathematical and computational sciences. Danny is based in Brooklyn.

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His ethics statement is located at https://www.dannycrichton.com/ethics/

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Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., center left, leaves the Supreme Court following an extradition hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Meng failed to persuade a Canadian judge to end extradition proceedings, keeping her under house arrest in Vancouver as the fight against U.S. efforts to prosecute her moves forward. Photographer: Darryl Dyck/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Intuitively, stores that sell online should be making a killing during the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, everyone is stuck at home u2014 and understandably more willing to shop online instead of at a traditional retailer to avoid putting themselves and others at medical risk. But the truth is, most smaller online stores have seen better days.

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The primary challenge is that smaller shops often donu2019t have the logistics networks that companies like Amazon do. Consequently, theyu2019re seeing substantially delayed delivery timelines, especially if they ship internationally. Customers obviously arenu2019t thrilled about that reality. And in many cases, theyu2019re requesting refunds at a staggering rate.

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I saw this play out firsthand in April. At that point, my stores were down 20% or in some cases even 30% in revenue. Needless to say, my team was freaking out. But thereu2019s one thing we did that helped us increase our revenue over 200% since the pandemic, decrease refund requests and even strengthen our existing customer relationships.

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We implemented a 24-hour live chat in all of our stores. Hereu2019s why it worked for us and why every digital brand should be doing it too.

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Avoid the common u2018unreachabilityu2019 frustration

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When I started my first online store in 2006, challenges that bogged my team down often meant that my teamu2019s first priority became resolving those challenges so that we could serve our customers faster. But admittedly, when these challenges came up, it became more difficult to balance communicating with our customers and resolving the issues that prevented us from fulfilling their orders quickly.

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Customers donu2019t just forget about the companies that treated them well u2014 and post-crisis, theyu2019ll be more likely to return to the vendors who gave them a good experience.

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Due to COVID-19, business continuity has been put to the test for many companies in the manufacturing, agriculture, transport, hospitality, energy and retail sectors. Cost reduction is the primary focus of companies in these sectors due to massive losses in revenue caused by this pandemic. The other side of the crisis is, however, significantly different.

n

Companies in industries such as medical, government and financial services, as well as cloud-native tech startups that are providing essential services, have experienced a considerable increase in their operational demands — leading to rising operational costs. Irrespective of the industry your company belongs to, and whether your company is experiencing reduced or increased operations, cost optimization is a reality for all companies to ensure a sustained existence.

n

One of the most reliable measures for cost optimization at this stage is to leverage elastic services designed to grow or shrink according to demand, such as cloud and managed services. A modern product with a cloud-native architecture can auto-scale cloud consumption to mitigate lost operational demand. What may not have been obvious to startup leaders is a strategy often employed by incumbent, mature enterprises — achieving cost optimization by leveraging managed services providers (MSPs). MSPs enable organizations to repurpose full-time staff members from impacted operations to more strategic product lines or initiatives.

n

Why companies need cost optimization in the long run

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The landscape shifts quickly, but managed services providers enable organizations to repurpose full-time staff members from impacted operations to more strategic product lines or initiatives.

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Aluminum and iconography are no longer enough for a product to get noticed in the marketplace. Today, great products need to be useful and deliver an almost magical experience, something that becomes an extension of life. Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML) is the latest embedded software technology that moves hardware into that almost magical realm, where machines can automatically learn and grow through use, like a primitive human brain.

n

Until now building machine learning (ML) algorithms for hardware meant complex mathematical modesu00a0based on sample data, known as “training data,u201d in order to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so. And if this sounds complex and expensive to build, it is. On top of that, traditionally ML-related tasks were translated to the cloud, creating latency, consuming scarce power and putting machines at the mercy of connection speeds. Combined, these constraints made computing at the edge slower, more expensive and less predictable.

n

But thanks to recent advances, companies are turning to TinyML as the latest trend in building product intelligence. Arduino, the company best known for open-source hardware is making TinyML available for millions of developers. Together with Edge Impulse, they are turning the ubiquitous Arduino board into a powerful embedded ML platform, like the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense and other 32-bit boards. With this partnership you can run powerful learning models based on artificial neural networks (ANN) reaching and sampling tiny sensors along with low-powered microcontrollers.

n

Over the past year great strides were made in making deep learning models smaller, faster and runnable on embedded hardware through projects like TensorFlow Lite for Microcontrollers, uTensor and Armu2019s CMSIS-NN. But building a quality dataset, extracting the right features, training and deploying these models is still complicated. TinyML was the missing link between edge hardware and device intelligence now coming to fruition.

n

Tiny devices with not-so-tiny brains

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Today and going forward, billions of tiny devices will act as an extension of our brains, feelings and emotions as a natural extension of everyday life.

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views on the future of retail and the shopping experience"},"content":{"rendered":"

The global spread of COVID-19 and resulting orders to shelter in place have hit retailers hard.

n

As the pandemic drags on, temporary halts are becoming permanent closures, whether itu2019s the coffee shop next door, a historic bar or a well-known lifestyle brand.

n

But while the present is largely bleak, preparing for the future has retailers adopting technologies faster than ever. Their resilience and innovation means retail will look and fee different when the world reopens.

n

We gathered four views on the future of retail from the TechCrunch team:

n

    n

  • Natasha Mascarenhas says retailers will need to find new ways to sell aspirational products u2014 and what was once cringe-worthy might now be considered innovative.
  • n

  • Devin Coldewey sees businesses adopting a slew of creative digital services to prepare for the future and empower them without Amazonu2019s platform.
  • n

  • Greg Kumparak thinks the delivery and curbside pickup trends will move from pandemic-essentials to everyday occurrences. He thinks that retailers will need to find new ways to appeal to consumers in a u201cshopping-by-proxyu201d world.
  • n

  • Lucas Matney views a revitalized interest in technology around the checkout process, as retailers look for ways to make the purchasing experience more seamless (and less high-touch).
  • n

n

Alexa, how do I look?

n

Natasha Mascarenhas

n

","protected":false},"excerpt":{"rendered":"

While the present is largely bleak, preparing for the future has retailers adopting technologies faster than ever. Their resilience and innovation means retail will look and fee different when the world reopens.

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Reach Natasha via e-mail at natasha.m@techcrunch.com or through DM on Twitter @nmasc_.

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His personal website is coldewey.cc.

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Greg started at TechCrunch in May of 2008. He led TechCrunch's sister site MobileCrunch as editor until AOL acquired the company in 2010, at which point the editors of TechCrunch's four main sites (TechCrunch, CrunchGear, MobileCrunch, TechCrunch UK) merged the sites under one domain.

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Best known for his gadget coverage, Kumparak has broken hundreds of stories within the space u2014 unearthing details on everything from abandoned Samsung smartphone prototypes to new Apple devices. He's also one of the Internet's most prolific "live bloggers", having reported from the scene at dozens of international events for live audiences in the hundreds of thousands.

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He was one of the earliest writers to highlight and report on a number of companies that have since become "unicorns" (reaching a valuation of $1B or more), including Zenefits and Twilio.

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Kumparak is a frequent guest on TechCrunch's Gadget, Apple, and Android podcasts, and often appears on stage as an interviewer or judge at TechCrunch's meetups and Disrupt conferences.

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In 2012, Greg was featured on the BBC, Wired, Mashable, Engadget and many other outlets for a side project he called the "tARdis", or the Augmented Reality TARDIS. By combining augmented reality with a handmade physical model, Greg was able to replicate the otherwise physically impossible "bigger on the inside" visual effect that commonly appears on television's Doctor Who series.

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Reach Natasha via e-mail at natasha.m@techcrunch.com or through DM on Twitter @nmasc_.

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Box CEO Aaron Levie has been working to change the software world for 15 years, but the pandemic has accelerated the move to cloud services much faster than anyone imagined. As he pointed out yesterday in an Extra Crunch Live interview, who would have thought three months ago that businesses like yoga and cooking classes would have moved online u2014 but here we are.

n

Levie says we are just beginning to see the range of what’s possible because circumstances are forcing us to move to the cloud much faster than most businesses probably would have without the pandemic acting as a change agent.

n

“Overall, what we’re going to see is that anything that can become digital probably will be in a much more accelerated way than we’ve ever seen before,” Levie said.

n

Fellow TechCrunch reporter Jon Shieber and I spent an hour chatting with Levie about how digital transformation is accelerating in general, how Box is coping with that internally and externally, his advice for founders in an economic crisis and what life might be like when we return to our offices.

n

Our interview was broadcast on YouTube and we have included the embed below.

n


n

Just a note that Extra Crunch Live is our new virtual speaker series for Extra Crunch members. Folks can ask their own questions live during the chat, with past and future guests like Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, GGV’s Hans Tung and Jeff Richards, Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz and many, many more. You can check out the schedule here. If you’d like to submit a question during a live chat, please join Extra Crunch.

n

n


n

On digital transformation

n

The way that we think about digital transformation is that much of the world has a whole bunch of processes and ways of working — ways of communicating and ways of collaborating where if those business processes or that way we worked were able to be done in digital forms or in the cloud, you’d actually be more productive, more secure and you’d be able to serve your customers better. You’d be able to automate more business processes.

n

We think we’re [in] an environment that anything that can be digitized probably will be. Certainly as this pandemic has reinforced, we have way too many manual processes in businesses. We have way too slow ways of working together and collaborating. And we know that we’re going to move more and more of that to digital platforms.

n

In some cases, it’s simple, like moving to being able to do video conferences and being able to collaborate virtually. Some of it will become more advanced. How do I begin to automate things like client onboarding processes or doing research in a life sciences organization or delivering telemedicine digitally, but overall, what we’re going to see is that anything that can become digital probably will be in a much more accelerated way than we’ve ever seen before.

n

How the pandemic is driving change faster

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Box CEO Aaron Levie has been working to change the software world for 15 years, but the pandemic has accelerated the move to cloud services much faster than anyone imagined. As he pointed out yesterday in an Extra Crunch Live interview, who would have thought three months ago that businesses like yoga and cooking classes […]

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Ron Miller has been writing about the enterprise at TechCrunch since 2014.

nn

Previously, he was a long-time Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. Past regular gigs included CITEworld, DaniWeb, TechTarget, Internet Evolution and FierceContentManagement.

nn

Disclosures:

nn

Ron is currently corporate blogger for Intronis where he writes once weekly on IT issues. He has contributed to various corporate blogs in the past including Ness, Novell and the IBM Mid-market Blogger Program.

","cbAvatar":"https://crunchbase-production-res.cloudinary.com/image/upload/diuuw7dfbczpdwmcpldm","twitter":"ron_miller"}],"author":[{"id":521068,"name":"Ron Miller","url":"","description":"","link":"https://techcrunch.com/author/ron-miller/","slug":"ron-miller","avatar_urls":{"24":"https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0b82cfe9f0e15c08c5816481c9f383d9?s=24&d=identicon&r=g","48":"https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0b82cfe9f0e15c08c5816481c9f383d9?s=48&d=identicon&r=g","96":"https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0b82cfe9f0e15c08c5816481c9f383d9?s=96&d=identicon&r=g"},"links":{"homepage":"https://techcrunch.com/author/ron-miller/","twitter":"https://twitter.com/ron_miller","linkedin":"http://www.linkedin.com/in/ronsmiller","crunchbase":"https://www.crunchbase.com/person/ron-miller"},"position":"Enterprise Reporter","cbDescription":"

Ron Miller has been writing about the enterprise at TechCrunch since 2014.

nn

Previously, he was a long-time Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. Past regular gigs included CITEworld, DaniWeb, TechTarget, Internet Evolution and FierceContentManagement.

nn

Disclosures:

nn

Ron is currently corporate blogger for Intronis where he writes once weekly on IT issues. He has contributed to various corporate blogs in the past including Ness, Novell and the IBM Mid-market Blogger Program.

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u201cA drone is a camera,u201d Ani Acopian begins simply. u201cAnd it can fly. Itu2019s basically a flying super-camera! Iu2019d love to see more film and TV productions embrace the nimble and magical nature of drones and use them for more than birdu2019s eye view establishing shots.u201d

n

The directoru2019s video for London-based record label AWAL (Artists Without a Label) unfolds like a minute-long homage to the narrative potential of UAVs. It lifts off from a desk, flies out a sliding-glass window, up over the room, down a stairwell and through a car. Thereu2019s a restaurant, some skaters in an empty pool, a parking lot junk yard and a backyard pool party. Itu2019s a bright, sun-shiny picture of Southern California in a time before social distancing turned us all into nocturnal weirdos.

n

The sequence is stitched together to give the appearance on long shot. Thatu2019s particularly the work of some editing magic, which pulled together a still-impressive five shots to create the final product. The result comes in no small part due to the flying of Robert McIntosh. The pilot, who had previously collaborated with director Spike Jonze on the 2012 skate video u201cPretty Sweet,u201d custom built the drone.

n

n

Weighing in at 120 grams, it was built by removing the camera from a GoPro Hero 6. That, along with the associated wires, were transferred onto the body of a racing drone. The result was palm-sized and fragile, with a dismal battery life of around three to five minutes a go. But the tiny size also allowed for an extremely nimble flying camera capable of shooting 4K video. The drone was flown at a slow speed, with McIntosh piloting through a pair of FPV racing goggles, with radio guidance from director of photography, Eric Maloney.

n

Acopian says the nature of the shoot required a fair bit of improvisation on the part of the crew, particularly with some scene utilizing up to 60 extras. Each were given a specific action to perform, while the director sat far away, giving directions through a bullhorn, so as to not be picked up through the camerau2019s wide-angle lens.

n

u201cWe werenu2019t able to rehearse with the cast or block out a flight path with the drone ahead of time,u201d she explains, u201cso the biggest challenge was showing up at a new location each morning and figuring out what the drone path, talent blocking and VFX markers would be, then rehearsing as much we could up until around two hours before sundown, at which point we had as many takes as we could fit into that two-hour window to nail the shot. If something wasnu2019t working, we changed it because otherwise we put the whole scene at risk of not happening.u201d

n

n

Each scene naturally required multiple takes u2014 up to 15 in some cases. And yes, that fragile little drone did crash a few times u2014 though it was mostly no worse for wear.

n

u201cThere was one crash that gave us all a scare, which happened while filming the scene where a partygoer gets caked,u201d Acopian adds. u201cThe actress took a step back, directly into the path of the flying drone, and the drone got caught in their hair and turned off. Luckily, she was chill with getting a little bit of her hair snipped off so we could get the drone out, and the guys were able to patch it up in about 20 minutes. Twenty minutes later we were shooting again and she took another cake to the face. A true hero.u201d

n

After the shoot, the video was processed through ReelSteady u2014 stabilization software created by McIntosh, which was acquired by GoPro back in March. Then it was effects company Alpha Studiosu2019 job to help stitch things together into one continuous shot.

n

u201cWe originally wanted to make every transition completely seamless and hidden, but locations and logistics meant that we had to make most of our transitions stylized. We worked closely with Alpha Studios to plot out where one shot would end and where the preceding shot would begin,u201d producer Jeremiah Warren says. u201cKaitlyn Yang, from Alpha Studios, was the on-set VFX supervisor and was key in helping us figure out these transition points that her team blended with VFX in post-production.u201d

n

The result is a lovely little glimpse into how drones can extend beyond the customary establishing shot and take a deeper storytelling role in the process.

n

u201cI know that the future for droning is very bright, and I anticipate that weu2019ll start to see drones used in ways that donu2019t immediately give away their u2018drone-ness,u2019 like to feign camera movements that would otherwise be difficult to achieve,u201d says Acopian. u201cYou donu2019t have to be high to fly! Drones, especially FPV drones, have this fluidity to them that beautifully mirrors the way memories feel to me and Iu2019m excited to see more people play with this to recreate the inner experience so many of us have in a new, relatable way.u201d

n","protected":false},"excerpt":{"rendered":"

u201cA drone is a camera,u201d Ani Acopian begins simply. u201cAnd it can fly. Itu2019s basically a flying super-camera! Iu2019d love to see more film and TV productions embrace the nimble and magical nature of drones and use them for more than birdu2019s eye view establishing shots.u201d The directoru2019s video for London-based record label AWAL (Artists […]

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SpaceX made history today, flying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to space aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft using a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch, titled ‘Demo-2’, is for the final demonstration mission in the human rating process of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Falcon 9, meaning that once this mission is complete, the launch vehicle will finally be certified for operational use for regular transportation of people to space. This was the second attempt, after an initial launch try last Wednesday was scrubbed due to weather conditions.

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This is the first time ever that humans have been aboard a SpaceX vehicle as it launched. To date, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets have succeeded in delivering multiple cargo payloads to orbit, but Behnken and Hurley are the first people to make the trip with the private spaceflight company.

n

SpaceX also successfully landed its first stage booster from the Falcon 9 used today u2013 which means it will recover the first private spacecraft booster that has ever delivered human astronauts to space.

n

NASA created the Commercial Crew space program to spur the development of private launch vehicles that would also be able to serve commercial customers in addition to the agency, in order to defray the cost of launch overall. Both SpaceX and Boeing ended up placing winning bids on the Commercial Crew contracts, and have subsequently developed human launch systems, though SpaceX is the first to actually fly people on their vehicle after Boeing encountered some unexpected issues in their last uncrewed demonstration flight.

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Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley bump fists to celebrate their history-making launch on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

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It’s been multiple decades since a human took off from U.S. soil on a brand new launch vehicle, and this is also the first time anyone has flown to space from an American launch site since the Space Shuttle program was officially retired in 2011. Returning U.S. spaceflight capabilities also means NASA won’t have to rely on Russia’s Roscosmos and its Soyuz spacecraft exclusively to transport its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) u2013 could save more than $30 million per astronaut per trip as a result.

n

Today’s launch kicks off a multi-week mission for Behnken and Hurley, which next involves a rendezvous with the ISS around 19 hours from now. Crew Dragon will first take around 30 minutes to perform a manual control test, wherein Behnken and Hurley will take over and fly the spacecraft themselves. This isn’t what would normally happen on a normal Crew Dragon mission, since the spacecraft is designed to make the trip to ISS on its own operating entirely in an automated manner.

n

After that manual control test, Crew Dragon will once again take over and then fly the remainder of the way to the ISS, where it’ll dock itself with an entry hatch on the station. From there, Behnken and Hurley will transfer over to the station, where they’re set to stay for a period of between six and sixteen weeks, depending on NASA’s determination of how long the mission should last. This is somewhat dependent on staffing requirements on board the ISS, since currently there’s only one U.S. astronaut there in an operational capacity, and Hurley and Behnken will be tasked with assisting with experiments and maintenance on the station.

n

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – MAY 30: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches into space with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (R) and Doug Hurley aboard the rocket from the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The inaugural flight is the first manned mission since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States. (Photo by Saul Martinez/Getty Images)

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Once it’s determined when they’re coming back, they’ll climb back aboard the Crew Dragon, seal it up and then detach from the station. This return part of the program is also designed to be fully automated, with the spacecraft preforming the necessary boost-back engine firing to control its re-entry and descent. Once in atmosphere, it’ll release its parachutes to slow the fall back to Earth, and coast to a landing in the Atlantic Ocean, where SpaceX crews will recover the capsule and provide the astronauts their ride back to dry land.

n

SpaceX plans to begin flying astronauts to the ISS for fully, regular operational missions later this year if all goes well, and it has also signed agreements to begin offering berths to paying passengers for Crew Dragon space tourist trips (likely with an extremely high price tag) as early as next year.

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SpaceX made history today, flying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to space aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft using a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch, titled ‘Demo-2’, is for the final demonstration mission in the human rating process of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Falcon 9, meaning that once this mission is complete, the launch […]

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Darrell Etherington is a Writer at TechCrunch, focused on science, space and health tech startups. Darrell used to work for Apple and Shopify in their respective PR departments, but he does not currently hold any stock in either company.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020. – NASA astronauts Hurley and Bob Behnken are set to depart for an extended stay at the International Space Station on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission. (Photo by Gregg Newton / AFP) (Photo by GREGG NEWTON/AFP via Getty Images)

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