All posts by Sally French

Need to renew your drone license? FAA announces recertification process details for commercial pilots

So you took your test to get your Remote Pilot Certificate two years ago? It’s time to renew.

The Federal Aviation Administration this week outlined details on the recertification process, which is imperative for drone pilots looking to legally operate commercially.

Regulations surrounding the FAA’s drone pilot certification for commercial pilots went into effect at the end of August 2016. Those regulations required that drone operators pass a UAS aeronautical knowledge test. The test can be taken at one of the 696 testing centers in the United States and asks questions on topics such as air traffic, weather and safety. Upon passing, pilots receive a license, which is good for two years.

And with those two years coming to an end for thousands of drone pilots, the FAA says it is time for pilots to go through a recurrent knowledge testing process to re-up and to maintain their stature as a commercially certificated sUAS operator.

Much like taking the initial drone test, the recurrent knowledge testing process requires pilots to book a testing appointment at one of around 700 FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the United States and achieve at least a 70% score to pass.

But the breakdown of topics that remote pilots will be tested on is a bit different.

Here are what types of questions potential pilots can expect to see on the initial license test: Continue reading Need to renew your drone license? FAA announces recertification process details for commercial pilots

The insanely smart Skydio R1 just got smarter: now it can track cars, too

Silicon Valley-based drone maker Skydio made waves earlier this year when it launched its Skydio R1 drone, a ridiculously smart, consumer-focused drone with 13 cameras surrounding it on all sides.

That meant that the drone could see and avoid obstacles on all sides, giving it the ability to lock its sensors on a human subject and track them — even if they are walking through dense areas. Continue reading The insanely smart Skydio R1 just got smarter: now it can track cars, too

CAA releases official government list of UK drone service providers

Looking to hire a drone service provider? If you’re in the United Kingdom, the government has released an actual list of companies that are authorized to legally fly for commercial purposes.

The list outlines Civil Aviation Authority-approved commercial operators of drones, which it defines as unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 20 kg (that’s 44 lbs). As of May 25, there are 4,141 businesses on the list, and the database clearly states when licenses were issued and when they expire.

The entire CAA list of authorized drone service providers can be found here.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the drone industry today is how to distinguish between professional service providers and the DIY aviator who just purchased their first drone,” Harrison Wolf, drone project lead for the World Economic Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “This initiative from the UK will make it much easier for businesses to know they have hired a qualified experienced professional for the job. ”

That’s in contrast to the system in the U.S., where there is no official list of authorized drone service providers. However, in the U.S. it IS possible to search the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 Certified Remote Pilot database, which is free online. That list is important for people to check whether the drone pilot they have hired actually has a license from the FAA.

The UK’s database by the CAA simply makes it easier for entities to find a drone pilot — a yellow pages of sorts.

“Previously, companies required extensive help from outside consultants just to create the frameworks for picking the drone pilots and service companies to which meet their needs,” Wolf said. “Now they can do it themselves.”

Industries leaders are applauding the move as proof that the UK government is forging ahead with adopting drone technology into its policies.

The UK has a history of being drone-friendly. Amazon has experimented with drone delivery in rural towns on the outskirts of London. At the end of 2016, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted a video of a book delivery via Amazon drone.

The tech giant had originally promised to do its testing in the U.S., but because it took too long for the U.S.’s FAA to grant permission, moved their drone testing operation abroad.

“This move by the UK shows it is trying to meet the needs of the industry while protecting the safety standards of society,” Wolf said. “Many civil aviation authorities could catalyze industry growth, promote best practices and provide incentive for drone operators to turn pro, simply by following in the footsteps of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.”

Peek inside the epic new DJI headquarters — including a robot fighting ring and theater

DJI is about to get an epic new headquarters office in Shenzhen, China.

Architectural firm Foster + Partners released a video showcasing designs for the DJI headquarters, which will be an interconnected pair of towers. See the concept video taking you through the headquarters, as published first by Architects Journal: Continue reading Peek inside the epic new DJI headquarters — including a robot fighting ring and theater

FlightWave’s Callie Mortimer knows the secret to making drones better for the environment

Callie Mortimer knows a thing or two about the value of natural resources.

She was born and grew up in South Africa, where she experienced droughts and times when the lights would go off because the energy grid had reached capacity.

As an adult, she spent time working in the oil and gas company. And now, she’s transitioned to the drone industry, where she’s working to make drones more environmentally friendly by way of hydrogen fuel cells.

Callie MortimerMortimer works as Director of Business Development at FlightWave Aerospace Systems, which builds an enterprise-grade drone powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Prior to that, she worked as an account manager at Intelligent Energy, which provides the power pack that allows the FlightWave’s Jupiter drone to fly.

Drone Girl: Why hydrogen fuel cells? What are the benefits for drones? Continue reading FlightWave’s Callie Mortimer knows the secret to making drones better for the environment

Interdrone 2018 just announced its keynote speaker — and it’s going to be big

Interdrone, one of the largest drone conferences in the U.S., just announced the keynote speaker for its 2018 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Adminstration Daniel K. Elwell will give the keynote presentation at this year’s conference on Sept. 5, which will be held at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Daniel K. Elwell FAA Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
Courtesy FAA

Elwell, former Air Force lieutenant general and former commercial airline pilot for American Airlines, took over the role of heading the FAA in January 2018.  Elwell replaced outgoing FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, whose term had expired after being tapped by former President Obama in 2013 to lead the agency.

He was previously a senior vice president for safety, security and operations with Airlines for America (A4A), the leading trade group representing most of the nation’s major airlines.

This is the third consecutive year that a representative from the FAA will give the grand keynote. Continue reading Interdrone 2018 just announced its keynote speaker — and it’s going to be big

Watch “The Drone Girl” join forces with Bill The Drone Reviewer on YouTube!

Looking for a great YouTube channel to follow all about drones? Check out Bill The Drone Reviewer. And a great episode to start out with?  How about the one with yours truly?

I joined Bill, from the Bill The Drone Reviewer YouTube channel, for  his first official livestream called Tuesday Night Rotor Talk Live. We discuss NAB2018, the latest on the Autel EVO and the Mavic Pro 2 (yes, you read that right! It’s not a typo!).

Bill has amazing, kind fans! I love the livestream comments which you can find on the full link here.

Check it out!

U.S. finally approves certain companies to test drone delivery, but Amazon wasn’t chosen

This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the full version here.

More than four years ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos promised in an interview that aired on “60 Minutes” that drones would be delivering small items to people’s homes within a half hour of the order being placed.

“I know this looks like science fiction,” he said. “It’s not.”

At the time, he said drone deliveries could happen as early as 2015, but more realistically within four to five years (which would have been 2017 or 2018).

More than four years later, the thought of Amazon drones landing at your doorstep is still a lot more like science fiction than reality.

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced the names of the 10 state and local governments that it has selected to conduct flight tests as part of its new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. The program pairs governments up with private companies to test types of drone flights that are currently banned in the U.S., including flying drones at night, flying over people and, yes, package delivery. Continue reading U.S. finally approves certain companies to test drone delivery, but Amazon wasn’t chosen