All posts by Sally French

7 reasons you need to take a drone trek to the Arctic

This is Part 3 of a 3-Part Series about my summer flying drones in the Arctic Circle. For Part 1, the Arctic Circle drone packing list, visit this link. For Part 2, tips for flying drones in the Arctic Circle visit this link.

By now you’ve read my Arctic Circle drone packing list. You’ve read my tips for flying drones in the Arctic. But for the third installment — I’m going to convince you why you need to actually go to the Arctic to make it happen. Here are 7 reasons why you need to fly your drone in the Arctic Circle:

  1. Little to no manned air traffic to worry about. If your city is near an airport, you likely can’t fly there. Then there are heliports to worry about (yield to manned traffic at all times). Luckily, the rules most countries enforce about not flying near airports doesn’t apply in the Arctic Circle, because there won’t be one. Arctic Watch Wildernerss Lodge, which is where I had my drone adventure, is only accessible via a single, privately owned airstrip. That airstrip typically only sees one manned flight a week — carrying campers, removing the headache of having to coordinate with air-traffic control.

2. Amazing views that you won’t get anywhere else. For my specific Arctic adventure, I went to Somerset Island’s Arctic Watch, a world-famous beluga whale hot spot. Beluga whales come to Somerset Island’s inlet to shed skin in July, making it a dream for drone pilots, with the relatively shallow water creating a unique vantage for aerial photos. Continue reading 7 reasons you need to take a drone trek to the Arctic

10 tips for flying your drone in the Arctic Circle

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part Series about my summer flying drones in the Arctic Circle. Check back later this week for Part 3! For Part 1, the Arctic Circle drone packing list, visit this link.

I just spent an incredible summer in the Arctic Circle — Somerset Island in Canada, to be exact –flying drones!

I had a life-changing trip camping at the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge through a trip with Quark Expeditions — not just flying drones, but exploring all the wonders the Arctic has to offer — spotting polar bears, biking on the sea ice, and enjoying 24/7 sunlight.

I also learned a lot about flying drones — because flying your drone in the Arctic comes with its own set of obstacles that are typically never an issue flying back at home. Here are the 10 top things I learned about flying your drones in the Arctic:

1. Be aware of magnetic interference from the poles:

Flying so far north (or south, if you’re in Antarctica!) will cause compass and GPS errors. Before flying in the Arctic, you should have plenty of practice flying in ATTI mode. Flying drones in the Arctic is also a good excuse for you to upgrade your old DJI Phantom 2 to DJ’s newer models. Older drones were more prone to flyaways near the poles because they relied on the compass for flight control (it was not uncommon a few years back to here stories of frequent flyaways). Continue reading 10 tips for flying your drone in the Arctic Circle

Flying drones in the North or South poles? Here’s your Arctic drone packing list

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part Series about my summer flying drones in the Arctic Circle. Check back later this week for Part 2! 

I just spent an incredible summer in the Arctic Circle — Somerset Island in Canada, to be exact –flying drones!

Packing for a drone trek is complicated enough — you need to make sure you’ve got batteries, memory cards, cords, etc. And packing for the Arctic? That’s next level!

Here’s your essential Arctic drone packing list of 8  items that are specific to flying drones in the Arctic — NOT including the typical stuff you would bring on any drone trek.

  1. Muck Boots: You’re going to need a pair of durable boots for trekking in the Arctic. Sorry, but your New Balance running shoes just won’t cut it. In the Arctic, even if you are past the snowy season, that only means there is more mud to deal with and and  rivers to cross (sorry, no paved trails here!). I highly recommend the Muck Boots.

They keep you warm and are durable in all terrains. I didn’t want to invest $100+ in a pair of boots that I would only wear once, so there is a silver lining here. I booked my Arctic drone adventure through Quark Expeditions, which is great, because they actually loan you a pair of boots for the week, including in the cost of the trip. Continue reading Flying drones in the North or South poles? Here’s your Arctic drone packing list

Would you pay thousands of dollars for a drone vacation? Tour operators are betting on it

This article was originally written by Sally French for MarketWatch. As first published in MarketWatch:

Vacation packages, such as yoga retreats and deep-sea-fishing trips, often promise to indulge travelers’ personal passions. But what about a drone vacation?

2018 survey by Booking.com asked customers what their ideal travel activities were, and 27% of respondents responded “learning a new skill.” One of these desired new skills may be drone flying, as several new travel offerings suggest.

The New York Times Journeys, a travel program run by the New York Times, has assembled its first-ever Drone Photography Journey. The $7,600 trip, not including airfare, departs next June and promises to lead participants on an eight-day trek around Norway, taking in such sights as the dramatic Lofoten Islands and ancient Viking settlements.

Since this is a drone trip, every day also includes one or two drone-photography sessions, led by photojournalist Josh Haner, who frequently uses a drone to take photos that have been published in the New York Times. Guests with their own drones can bring them, and new pilots can use one provided by the company.

The New York Times offers dozens of so-called Journeys — mostly led by journalists — such as a culinary journey through India, led by a reporter from the food section, or a climate-change-focused Antarctica trip featuring two Times science writers. This is the first time that the New York Times has ever offered a drone-themed vacation.

The idea of using a vacation to experiment with something new or to try out a unique activity is apparently gaining traction with travelers. Expedia Group Chief Executive Mark Okerstrom said the company generated “north of half a billion dollars in bookings” in 2017 across its Things to Do and Local Expert businesses, and grew its activities transactions by approximately 20% in the first quarter of 2018. TripAdvisor added 30,000 new guided experiences to its site last year, a 50% increase. Continue reading Would you pay thousands of dollars for a drone vacation? Tour operators are betting on it

Yuneec Mantis Q vs. DJI Spark, Mavic Pro and Mavic Air: which is the best for the money?

Chinese drone manufacturer Yuneec this week launched an all-new consumer drone, the Mantis Q.

The $499 drone resembles the DJI Mavic and Spark drones with its small, foldable design. But it has one feature that DJI’s drones don’t have: voice-control.

While DJI dominates the drone market on all fronts, Yuneec has remained the most notable competitor in disrupting DJI’s monopoly over the past few years. So does the Mantis Q stand a chance against DJI’s large lineup of consumer drones?

Here’s a detailed breakdown on how the Yuneec Mantis Q stacks up v.s the DJI Mavic Pro, Mavic Air and Spark drones.

DJI MAVIC AIR DJI MAVIC PRO DJI SPARK
YUNEEC MANTIS Q
Price $799 $999 $399 $499
Flight Time 21 minutes 27 minutes 16 minutes 33 minutes
Max Video Resolution 4K @30 fps 4K @30 fps 1080p 4K @30fps
Design Foldable Foldable Small Foldable
Longest side (folded) 6.6 inches 7.8 inches 5.6 inches 6.6 inches
Longest side (unfolded) 7.2 inches 12 inches 5.6 inches 9.8 inches
Weight 0.9 pounds 1.6 pounds 0.6 pounds 1.05 pounds
Obstacle Sensing Forward and backward Forward Forward None
Control modes Gesture, Mobile Device and Remote Controller Mobile Device and Remote Controller Gesture, Mobile Device and Remote Controller
Gesture, Mobile Device, Remote Controller and Voice Control
Interal Storage 8 GB None None None
ISO range 100 – 1600 100 – 3200 100 – 3200 100 – 3200

The most standout difference with the Yuneec Mantis Q is the flight time — a whopping 33 minutes — twice the DJI Spark’s 16 minutes and still more than even the DJI Mavic Pro’s 27 minutes. That alone could make the Mantis Q worth it for some drone shoppers.

yuneec mantis q battery 33 minutes life
This little battery supplies the Yuneec Mantis Q with a whopping 33 minutes of flight time.

As far as size and portability, the Yuneec Mantis Q looks to be larger similar to DJI’s competitors — with its size mostly comparable to the DJI Mavic Air. I do love how much smaller the Mavic Air (and Mantis Q) is than the Mavic Pro, but since all of them are so small and portable, I don’t find one to be more of a dealbreaker than the other.

The Mantis Q costs $499 — making it more than the DJI Spark, but less than the Mavic line of drones. So is it worth it? Continue reading Yuneec Mantis Q vs. DJI Spark, Mavic Pro and Mavic Air: which is the best for the money?

Yuneec’s new Mantis Q drone may not have obstacle avoidance, but it does has voice control

In an effort to keep up with the rapidly DJI-dominant consumer drone market, Chinese drone manufacturer Yuneec has a new gimmick up its sleeve: voice control.

Yuneec today announced the Mantis Q, the latest addition to its line of consumer drones. The $499, voice-controlled drone resembles the DJI Mavic and Spark drones with its ability to fold its arms against its body to a 6.6 x 3.8 inch mass. It is highly portable, weighing just one pound. Yuneec Mantis Q consumer drone voice control

Like most consumer drones these days, it offers 4K video. The camera can be tilted upwards by up to 20 degrees or downwards by 90 degrees during flight. For cinematic camera flights, the Mantis Q also comes with Yuneec’s automatic flight modes such as Journey, Point of Interest and Orbit Me. Down-facing dual sonar sensors and infrared detection make it safe enough to fly indoors and outdoors.

That’s all pretty much the norm for most consumer drones these days. So what makes Yuneec’s Mantis Q special?

Yuneec is largely touting a new feature that you likely won’t find on any other consumer drone: voice control. Continue reading Yuneec’s new Mantis Q drone may not have obstacle avoidance, but it does has voice control

DJI Mavic 2 drone finally has a new launch date after product leak

It has been a rocky road for the Mavic 2, but it seems the day is upon us when we’ll see it — officially.

DJI had set a date for a new product launch on July 18, but then called the event off so “we can deliver according to our standard of innovation,” according to a statement from DJI.

While the Internet was abound with leaked images of what could only be the Mavic 2, it became official after a U.K.-based catalog published with an advertisement for the Mavic 2.

“Of all places to confirm the Mavic 2 its Argos UK – 2 additions being released Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro (1″ CMOS sensor) — both 31 mins of flight time, 8km range and 1080P live video transmission,” Brett Thake tweeted.

The embargo break by a print catalog of all things forced DJI to officially confirm the Mavic 2’s existence. Continue reading DJI Mavic 2 drone finally has a new launch date after product leak

Do I have to remove the drone from its bag when going through airport security?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about taking your drone through the TSA. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I had a question regarding going through airport security with a drone. I have a DJI Phantom 3 and want to know if I have to remove the drone from its bag when going through security?

Ah, traveling with a drone! The answers seem to change based on who, and when you ask.

First, let me make it clear: you can bring a drone through airport security if you are traveling in the U.S. Here’s the wording, directly from the TSA’s website:

“Drones are allowed through the checkpoint. Please check with your airline for their policy.”

But to answer your question more specifically about whether you have to remove it from your bag? That answer is more unclear.

The TSA does require you to remove large electronic items, such as laptops and printers from their bags, but it’s unclear whether a drone is a “large” electronic item, or if it’s more in line with a small electronic item, such as a smartphone, which you don’t have to remove. The TSA sometimes even requests that you remove books from your bag when going through screening!

Based on my experience alone, it varies not just by airport, but by who is doing the screening.

I was just traveling this summer in Canada as part of a trip to the Arctic Circle with Quark Expeditions. The airport in Edmonton, Canada specifically told me to not remove my drone (I asked the screener as I got in line!). However, the security in Calgary, Canada stopped me and had to check my bags.

My advice is this: politely ask the screener at the front of the security process what they suggest. Say, “By the way, I have a drone that weighs about 3 pounds in my bag. Do I have to take it out?” Continue reading Do I have to remove the drone from its bag when going through airport security?