DJI Mavic Pro vs. Autel X-Star Premium: which is better?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about which drone to buy for travelers. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m getting a drone. Mavic Pro or the X-Star Premium? I travel a lot and will take it with me. I am also a beginner.

I like this question! Short and to the point.  Now I’ll get to the point!

Both the DJI Mavic Pro ($999) and Autel X-Star Premium ($749) drones are excellent for beginners. They are very easy to use, allowing you to see what the drone’s camera sees in real-time through your smartphone or tablet. They have autonomous take-off and landing features and return to home, so they are both very beginner friendly.

Overall, I do think the DJI Mavic Pro is a better drone than the Autel X-Star Premium. But a lot of this comes down to your budget, and in this case you definitely get what you pay for.

If you are on more of a budget, then the X-Star is an excellent drone for $150 less than what you’ll pay for the Mavic. But if you think it is absurd to drop $1,000+ on a drone, then stop reading right now and just get the Autel X-Star! It is a great drone! Continue reading DJI Mavic Pro vs. Autel X-Star Premium: which is better?

Why is my drone’s LCD so dark? And what is DJI CrystalSky?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone LCD brightness and DJI’s CrystalSky monitor. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Hey Drone Girl,

I am new to the drone world. I am hoping to incorporate the aerial photography into my roofing consulting business. I purchased a DJI Phantom 3 Professional and love its user-friendliness; however, I cannot seem to get a clear view of what the camera is viewing. It is taking video and stills but the view is dark. I have adjusted the brightness up all the way to no avail. I have tried using my iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy and iPad, and the results are the same. I have tried using a glare shield, which is a slight help. I was wondering if I need to purchase those goggles I see others using? Maybe I should put my head into a pillow case or box? 


Hey Bill,

No need to put your head in a pillow case! But you’re right; drone LCDs with low brightness are a serious issue.

Such a serious issue, that in fact, DJI announced at CES 2017 a prototype for a new product called CrystalSky, a monitor with an ultra-bright screen designed to be clearly visible in sunlight. With 2000 cd/m² of brightness, it’s more than four times as bright as most mobile devices. The monitor is designed to function with a range of DJI’s drones, including the Inspire 2 and Inspire 1 series, Phantom 4 series, Matrice series and the Phantom 3 Professional, which you have.

It is expected to be released later this year, which unfortunately means you can’t use it now.

That being said, there are some other alternatives: Continue reading Why is my drone’s LCD so dark? And what is DJI CrystalSky?

Measure raises $15 million toward drone service business

The past 12 months have been a year of consolidation for the drone hardware world. Major drone makers including GoPro, Parrot and 3D Robotics have announced layoffs, while funding to drone-related companies has seen a drop-off.

There was $55 million invested in eight VC deals for the drone industry in the third quarter of 2016, compared with $134 million invested in 12 VC deals in the third quarter of 2015.

But one area that’s still growing is in the software and service side of the drone industry. Measure, a drone service operator, is one of the companies leading that way. The startup today announced a $15 million Series B funding round with LionTree Advisors acting as the financial advisor. Measure’s last investment round was in September of 2015.

Measure is a startup that has built out a national network of licensed pilots. The pilots are trained to  acquire, process, and deliver aerial data to enterprise customers for projects such as cell tower inspections, construction development, precision agriculture, disaster response and live media coverage. Its mantra is, “We don’t make drones. We make drones work.”

Measure’s pilots flew more than 1,100 flights throughout 2016 — that’s about three flights a day.

Measure is part of a growing group of drone companies that are focusing on commercial applications of drones. Drone data management platform DroneDeploy raised $20 million in a Series B deal in August. Earlier in 2016, Airware announced a $30 million Series C round to sell complete drone solutions to major companies, from drone hardware, the software to control them, and the cloud where their data goes.

2016 was the year that consumer drone companies consolidated. But 2017 may just be the year that commercial drone companies start growing.

How to use a drone for aerial thermography

As thermal sensors become smaller, lighter, less expensive and more widely available on drones, more commercial drone applications are integrating aerial thermography.

Drones with thermal cameras are being used for inspecting HVAC units, wind turbines, cell towers, roofs, or finding missing people. And more drone companies are making it easy to incorporate thermal imaging in drones.

At the Consumer Electronics Show 2017, Autel announced a new camera for its X-Star, a FLIR Duo dual thermal and visual camera module, which can show thermal and standard, visual light images. It allows users to switch between the two in-flight, view both at the same time with picture-in-picture, or see a blended image of both, and will launch in the first quarter of 2017.

Yuneec also announced its H520, a six-rotor drone for commercial applications. One of its camera options is the CGO-ET dual thermal RGB camera.

But what are clients looking for in terms of data gathering? How do you handle post-processing of data? How can you build an aerial thermal imaging business?  UAV Coach, which has had tremendous success in its FAA Part 107 course (I used it, and passed my own Part 107!), is now launching a course on Aerial Thermal Imaging for Drone Pilots.

The self-paced course is available for $199.

The course primarily uses DJI products (ZenMuse XT Thermal Sensor and DJI Inspire) though of course there are plenty of other aircraft and sensor configurations. (The DJI Inspire and ZenMuse XT are widely used to capture accurate thermal data relatively easily and are representative of the capabilities of the majority of aerial thermography systems.)thermal imaging for uav pilots uav coach drone


Lily drone company shuts down two years after pre-orders opened (without delivering any drones)

The much-hyped Lily drone, the tiny, waterproof drone that seemingly could fly right out of your hands, has reached its end.

The drone’s founders, Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow, sent out an email to backers on Wednesday announcing that the company was shutting down.

The company never shipped any drones, despite pre-orders opening up two years ago.

Here is the complete text of the email: Continue reading Lily drone company shuts down two years after pre-orders opened (without delivering any drones)

Save $10 on all Drone Girl hoodies and sweatshirts

How cute is this amazing woman? That’s my mom! I guess you could call her Drone Mom!

Anyway, since she is rocking a Quad Squad hoodie in the Missouri snow, I wanted to share the love with all of you.

Now through January 31, get $10 off ALL hoodies and jackets from the Drone Girl shop using coupon code “Hoodies10”.

That means you can get your own “I Fly Like A Girl” hoodie, “Quad Squad” hoodie (modeled by my mom) or “We Can Fly It” raglan sweater.

Visit the Drone Girl shop here.

Stay warm, everybody!

Parrot will lay off 290 people — 1/3 of its drone staff

This is an excerpt of a story originally written for Read the entire story here.

2016 was a rough year for the consumer drone industry — and French electronics company Parrot is the latest to announce it took a hit.

Parrot, which makes the Bebop consumer drone and recently launched the Disco fixed wing  drone, announced Monday a plan to reduce its drone team of 840 employees by 290 people — about one-third. 150 positions would be cut from its headquarters in France, along with other positions around the world, according to its most recent earnings report.

Parrot reported fourth-quarter revenues of $89.8 million, below its target of $105.7 million. Drones generated $63.4 million in revenue for the company, which also manufacturers headphones and smart devices including flower pots. Parrot said it is targeting 10% growth for its drone business in 2017 with a goal to break even on operation costs.

Parrot isn’t the only company to announce layoffs. GoPro announced in 2016 that it would lay off 200 employees following the recall of its Karma drone, after some customers reported that the drones were losing power and falling from the sky. GoPro has since said it will resume Karma sales, but has not said when they will return to market.

A few months prior to the GoPro news, 3D Robotics, laid off 150 members of its staff. At its peak, the company had employed more than 350 people.

Yuneec shifts focus to customer service and a new H520 drone

Yuneec had a major presence at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada this year.

In past years it has unveiled its sense and avoid technology. But this year, the focus is back to the basics — and that’s a good thing.

Yuneec this week announced upgrades to its enterprise and commercial applications, while also focusing on upgrades to its customer service programs.

Yuneec H520 commercial drone

Yuneec unveiled the H520, a six-rotor drone for commercial applications. It looks very much like the Typhoon H drone (but is bright orange for high visibility), building off the six-rotor platform (that is capable of flying under emergency situations with just five rotors) while incorporating commercial-grade cameras and applications for high-end commercial use.  Continue reading Yuneec shifts focus to customer service and a new H520 drone

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones