DJI Circle offers premium drone customer support — at a premium price

For professional customers with a pretty massive wallet, DJI this week announced its new DJI Circle program, a premium customer support program.

And the price tag to buy into the program? It starts at $4,699 for a 12-month period.

The DJI Circle program will offer members broad coverage over a twelve-month period for up to five DJI products, including the Inspire, M600, Mavic Pro and Phantom drone series, and the Ronin and Osmo series of handheld stabilizers.

That’s not to say the nearly $5,000 for 12-months fee is a bad deal. The program includes a personal DJI concierge who can help manage a battery rental service and repairs; coverage includes accidental damage to DJI products, up to $15,000 annually. The concierge will send along a temporary replacement device to use until the repair is complete.  Continue reading DJI Circle offers premium drone customer support — at a premium price

Coachella drones take over the music festival with Intel’s newest light show

Coachella this year was about a whole lot more than just flower crowns, rainbow hair and crochet crop tops. The newest addition to Coachella was a whole lot less cliche — drones.

Intel sent 300 of its synchronized Shooting Star drones into the night sky between sets of indie pop band The xx and Radiohead. The drones flew again behind the main stage before Lady Gaga’s performance. (Lady Gaga is quite the drone queen, having also performed in the Super Bowl show that featured drones).

The drones took the shape of objects including a ferris wheel, rotating windmill and palm trees.

Coachella is the latest in an impressive line-up of high profile performances that Intel’s drones have taken part in. Inte’s drones have also flown over Sydney, Australia’s 2016 Vivid Lights and Ideas festival, Coca Cola Mexico’s Caravan of Lights, and a light show during the holidays at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs shopping complex in Orlando, Florida.

Each drone is about the weight of a volleyball and can be programmed with relative easy to light up in any shape and in 4 billion color combinations for commercial entertainment light shows.

Intel’s drones are not publicly for sale, and the chip maker would not disclose how much they would cost or whether they are more cost effective than their nighttime light show counterpart, fireworks.  However, rather than fading out like fireworks, they drones can flash on and off and also create much more precise shapes than fireworks would. They also reduce the environmental impact that fireworks have on air pollution.

Though, this isn’t the first time drones have made an appearance at Coachella. Kaskade had drones flying over its show in 2015, though their purpose was to shoot video — not serve as a light show.

And people seemed to love the fireworks-style drone show:

Spark may be DJI’s next drone — and it’s smaller than the Mavic Pro

DJI’s newest drone could be smaller than the Mavic Pro — and it may be called “Spark.”

Leaked pictures and videos of a drone appeared on various forums this week, showing a drone with a similar form to the Mavic Pro but at half the size. Its name? “Spark.” The photos were initially posted to this site, which has since been removed, but TechCrunch captured them.

Unlike the Mavic Pro, it appears that the arms do not fold in. The drone has a camera that at least moves up and down, indicating it could be used for racing or simple photography. The camera is mounted on what looks like a brushless gimbal.

It is unclear what the drone is intended to be used for, though it could fill one corner of the market where DJI is still lacking: low-cost, toy drones. DJI’s cheapest drone available is still about $400-$500.

Others have suggested it could be DJI’s first racing-focused drone.

A DJI spokesperson would not confirm or deny the existence of a “Spark” drone. But, a trademark for the name “Spark” was filed by DJI on March 6, 2017.

What do you think of Spark? Leave your opinion in the comments below!

Ask Drone Girl: starting a drone small business

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about starting a drone small business. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m currently in the cell phone industry and want to go into the drone business. I am wondering what is a good drone to start a drone business with? And what would someone be looking at revenue wise? And do you think the drone business for people with their own drones and drone businesses will grow or get smaller? 

Hey there,

Congrats on the career switch! There’s a lot to unpack here. First off, to acknowledge your background in the cell phone industry, it’s great you already have experience in a field. My mind is immediately jumping to cell tower inspections. Given your experience in the industry already, you may have contacts in those areas which gives you a huge head start.

To your first question about what drone to buy: the great news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money on drone gear to have a successful business. 84% of drone mapping and modeling is occurring on drone models that cost $1500 or less, according to a report by drone mapping software company DroneDeploy. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: starting a drone small business

Drone Girl to fly-in to DroneDeploy’s Girls in Tech meetup

Another female-focused drone event is happening in the San Francisco Bay Area! How does a Friday Fly Day sound?

I’m excited to announce I’ll be partnering with cloud software platform DroneDeploy for their Fly Day on Friday, May 5 from 3:30 to 9 p.m.

We’ll be flying drones at the Berkeley Marina, making maps, and learning about how drone mapping is driving job creation worldwide. After flying, we will return to DroneDeploy HQ for their traditional Friday BBQ.

Here’s the schedule:

3:30 pm – Meet at Berkeley Marina
3:30-4:00 pm – Intro to DroneDeploy
4:00-6:00 pm – Flying Drones with the Team
6:00-6:45 pm – Return to SF (Transportation will be provided.)
7:00-9:00 pm – BBQ at DroneDeploy HQ

I love a good Friday Fly Day!

At the event, you’ll get to meet leading drone experts including DroneDeploy cofounder Jono Millin, humanitarian UAV practitioner Jessie Mooberry, drone marketer Kara Murphy, and DroneDeploy philanthropy director Samantha Salis.

RSVP here, and check out their event page on Facebook to see who else is going!

Ask Drone Girl: is there any visual observer training for drone operations?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about visual observer training. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m currently doing work for a non-profit and just got my part 107 license. I’d like to train a client at my non-profit as a visual observer. While I can tell them to watch and make sure I don’t bump into stuff, I was wondering if there was anything more that could be done – a small training or something that you’ve heard of to prepare a visual observer to help a pilot?

Hey there,

You’re right, honestly a visual observer chalks down to making sure you don’t bump into stuff. My visual observer has also served highly useful in deflecting conversations with the general public! A lot of people approach me as I’m flying and want to ask about what I’m doing, but I don’t really want to think about talking to people when I’m focused on flying!

That being said, it is important your visual observer has an understanding of the operation beyond just “watch out for that tree.”

First off, they need to follow the FAA’s rules under 14 CFR 107.33. That means they must: maintain effective communication with the person manipulating the flight controls and remote pilot in command at all times, they must ensure the visual observer can see the unmanned aircraft, they must scan the airspace where the drone is operation and they must maintain awareness of the position of the drone at all times.

Of course, they must also adhere to the FAA’s rules around alcohol and drugs — no operating an aircraft within 9 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage. (No drinking and droning!)

I would recommend they go through the FAA’s free Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) course. Going through this course is actually a requirement for existing Part 61 pilots (people who already have a manned pilot’s license).

The course takes about two hours to complete and is free as a self-study tool to the general public. There’s a free practice test at the end. It will go through basic rules, operating procedures and safety.

If they decide they want to take the full Part 107 test, that’s great too! Check out my guide to how I studied for and passed the test.

Happy flying!

Flybrix teaches kids how to build and fly drones with Legos

Scroll to the bottom of this post for a Flybrix coupon code for free shipping.

Looking for a drone for your students or kids? San Francisco-based startup Flybrix has developed a way to teach students from grade school to grad school about drones using Legos.

Flybrix creates kits of Lego bricks alongside propellers, a LiPo battery and Flybrix’s pre-programmed flight board that can be turned into a working drone in about 15 minutes. It’s intended for people age 14 and up to build on their own, but can also be built by kids with some help with their parents.

Flybrix launched in 2014 as a company that was working on a flying selfie camera that could hover in place. The engineers used Legos in their prototyping process.

“We had this ‘aha’ moment,” said Holly Kasun, chief operating officer at Flybrix — who sometimes is referred to as the “chief fun officer.”

Soon enough, the Lego prototype became the product.

Flybrix COO Holly Kasun

The product fits perfectly into Kasun’s genealogy. She’s the daughter of a fifth grade teacher, and her grandfather has a PhD from Caltech and designed airplanes.

But Kasun says that while the drone is targeted at mostly junior high and high school students, everyone from young kids to professional engineers are using it.

“A younger student is going to start understanding a PCB and what sensors look like,” Kasun said. “They’ll be able to build a working vocabulary on topics related to electronics, physics and aerodynamics.”

And for students who master building the drone, they can then progress onto designing their own airframes. A Chrome extension also allows pilots to adjust settings and motor tune. Continue reading Flybrix teaches kids how to build and fly drones with Legos

The gear you need for a drone mapping project is surprisingly cheap

Are you looking into using drones for mapping? You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on your setup.

84% of drone mapping is occurring on drone models that cost $1500 or less, according to a report released today by drone mapping software company DroneDeploy.

dronedeploy drones mapping
Courtesy of DroneDeploy

Most of the maps created on DroneDeploy software are made using DJI drones; the most commonly used drone to utilize DroneDeploy’s software is the $1,199 Phantom 4. 80% of maps are made on either a Phantom or $999 Mavic drone.”Only five months after launch, the DJI Phantom 4 dethroned the DJI Phantom 3 Pro as the most commonly used drone for mapping, and as of mid-March, the Mavic and Phantom 4 Pro were racing neck and neck as they take aim to replace the Phantom 4,” according to DroneDeploy’s report. Continue reading The gear you need for a drone mapping project is surprisingly cheap

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones