All posts by Sally French

Get 20% off all new merch at the Drone Girl shop!

The Drone Girl shop has switched vendors — which means all new merchandise!

In light of major changes at American Apparel — the former Drone Girl vendor, the Drone Girl has switched up its clothing brand.

All the logos and designs you know and love are still there — just on a different brand of shirt. The best news for you is my new vendor is a lower cost than American Apparel — and those savings are passed on to you!fly me to the moon shirt

To make the news even sweeter, I want you to try out the new merchandise, so  — in addition to the new lower prices — I’m offering you 20% off the entire Drone Girl shop through the end of May. Use coupon code MAY20 to get the discount.

Happy flying, and happy shopping!

So what airspace CAN I fly in while using a drone in San Francisco?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about finding where you can legally fly your drone — specifically in San Francisco. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m going to San Francisco for a wedding at the end of May. I wanted to bring my drone and capture some shots of such a beautiful city. However, it seems like just about everything is restricted. Can you recommend some good safe places to fly out there? I’d hate to bring it all the way out there just to find out I can’t fly it anywhere.


Hey Dan,

Welcome in advance to San Francisco, and I’m thrilled to hear you want to take pictures of the beautiful city that I live in.

You are right — a LOT of places that our totally incredible also fall in restricted airspace. Most of the beach area on the western side of the city is part of a National Park, as well as the Presidio and Alcatraz. Then, you’ve got the airport down in the southern part of the city which prevents you from flying, as well as Oakland airport on the opposite side of the bay should you want to fly there. Continue reading So what airspace CAN I fly in while using a drone in San Francisco?

NASA is using drones to explore volcanoes

Drones are so much more than a means of gathering pretty photos. They’ve gathered whale DNA and they’ve herded elephants.

And now, NASA is using drones to explore volcanoes to improve the accuracy of ashfall measurements.

Ashfall from volcanoes can be dangerous to aircraft; the microscopic particles of the ash cloud can erode metal and clog fuel systems, and in airspace where levels of volcanic ash exceeds 0.2 milligrams per cubic meter of air space, the area becomes a no-fly zone. After the April 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, 95,000 flights were cancelled and $1.7 billion were lost.

But while areas of volcanic activity are too dangerous for manned aircraft to enter, scientists can send drones instead.

NASA is partnering with Boulder-based Black Swift Technologies to create a set of drones, called the SuperSwift XT, that can be sent around volcanoes with sensors that can measure gas and atmospheric parameters, gathering data about particle size-frequency distribution, vertical ash concetration and levels of sulfur dioxide.

NASA is paying Black Swift Technologies $124,849 to work on the project, according to public records. Continue reading NASA is using drones to explore volcanoes

The big DJI May 24 announcement: could DJI’s Spark arrive this month?

Update: the DJI Spark has been formally announced. Read all about it here.

DJI has a big announcement coming at the end of this month. Any thoughts on what it could be?

DJI is hosting an invitation-only event between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on May 24 in New York City. The details are pretty limited except for the event’s incredibly vague titled, “Seize The Moment.”

DJI May 24 announcement
The invitation for DJI’s upcoming event

My bet is on the DJI Spark — a drone that resembled a miniature version of the DJI Mavic. It is unclear what the Spark 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. Continue reading The big DJI May 24 announcement: could DJI’s Spark arrive this month?

You have to see this new drone museum exhibition in NYC

Drones aren’t THAT old, but they’re already becoming the stuff of museums.

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Complex in New York City this week opened an exhibit called “Drones: Is the sky the limit?” making it the U.S.’s first major museum exhibition on drones.

The exhibit is located in a 6,000 square foot pavilion on Pier 86 in New York City, and will showcase historical artifacts, model airplanes, actual drones, three-dimensional computer renderings and rare videos. Continue reading You have to see this new drone museum exhibition in NYC

Intel’s drone light show and other things you missed at AUVSI Xponential

AUVSI XPonential 2017– the conference put on by the Association for Unmanned vehicle System — is in full swing this week at the Dallas Convention Center in Texas.

Among the top draws of the show — an indoor presentation of its drones, flying live for audiences at AUVSI. During the keynote, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced the next version of the Intel Shooting Star drone for outdoor light shows, and said Intel will work with key partners to scale these performances globally. Audiences were then treated to a live demo of the drones.

The Shooting Star drones are a form of nighttime entertainment that could replace fireworks by making light shapes in the sky, and have performed at spots including Coachella, the Super Bowl and Walt Disney World.

The show was also an opportunity for companies to demo new products or announce new initiatives. Grpyon Sensors announced its plan for UTM involving sensors to detect drones. Drone detection company Gryphon Sensors this week announced that it had launched a system for drone traffic management which it calls Mobile Skylight. The system combines self-contained sensors with third-party sensor inputs to record flight data, using radar to detect low-flying drones at ranges of 10 kilometers. Grpyon Sensors is a non-profit research corporation chartered by the State of New York and has been contributing to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pathfinder Program and NASA’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM) program

As for other things you missed, what’s a conference without a huge show floor? Here are some gems:

A DJI Phantom crashed into a bike race — causing the cyclist to fly over the handles

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

Just when you thought getting doored was the most traumatizing thing that could happen to you as a cyclist, now there are vehicles in the sky you need to watch out for.

A DJI Phantom drone flying over cyclists on May 6 during the Golden State Race Series in Rancho Cordova, Calif. hit a tree, crashing into a rider’s front wheel. The cyclist was able to bike a bit further down the road, until the drone locked up the front wheel, causing the biker to fly over the handle bars.

Another biker, Kaito Clarke, who was using a Garmin Virb camera to video his race, captured the whole drone collision on camera, which he then posted to YouTube. Watch the drone collision here, which starts around the 30-second mark and replays again in slow motion:

The cyclist suffered a gravel rash and the drone pilot, who immediately came forward to admit it was his device, offered to purchase a new bike for the injured cyclist.

This isn’t the first crash from a drone made by DJI, which has what analysts say is a 70% market share of the drone market. In 2015, a Phantom drone belonging to a government employee crashed near the White House. DJI attempted to mitigate that and future situations by putting a virtual fence on its drones, building software that prevents them from flying within a 15.5-mile radius of downtown Washington, D.C.

As drones become more commonplace, drone crashes like this could happen a lot more frequently. People bought 2.4 million hobbyist drones in the U.S. in 2016, more than double the 1.1 million sold in 2015, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

The Federal Aviation Administration created new rules in 2016 that make it illegal for commercial drone operators in the U.S. to fly drones over people not directly participating in the operation. Only two companies have waivers exempting them from those rules — FLIR, which makes thermal cameras used on drones, and CNN, which tethers its drones to the ground for safety.

The FAA’s rules around hobby drone operators — meaning people flying drones not for profit — are significantly less strict. Hobby drone pilots are supposed to follow safety guidelines developed by groups such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which say you should not intentionally fly over people. But those are guidelines, not rules, meaning that the drone pilot flying over this race may not have broken any rules if they weren’t flying for commercial purposes.

Parrot Professional joins 3D Robotics in repackaging consumer drones as enterprise solutions

Drone manufacturer Parrot on Monday announced Parrot Professional — Parrot’s consumer drones (the Disco and the Bebop) repackaged as commercial enterprise products through add-ons like Pix4D and thermal cameras.

Parrot’s new products include the $4,499 Parrot Disco-Pro AG — Parrot’s $899 Disco drone packaged with Pix4D and access to the Airinov online mapping platform and the $1,100 Parrot Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling — the $595 Bebop 2 quadcopter with Pix4D capture and Pix4D model software.

The drones target enterprise use cases; the Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal could enable inspection and thermal detection companies, roofers, plumbers, building workers, and also firefighters, to get thermal and radiometry information. Parrot-Pro 3D Modeling could target real-estate agents and architects who want to create promotional videos or interactive 3D models.

parrot professional disco ag airinov pix4d
Parrot’s Disco-Pro Ag

Amid a long line of consumer drone companies struggling to stay afloat, Parrot is the latest drone company to repackage what are relatively inexpensive consumer drones as professional products. (Parrot in January cut 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.) Continue reading Parrot Professional joins 3D Robotics in repackaging consumer drones as enterprise solutions