All posts by Sally French

This is the first business to (legally) fly drones around Americans’ heads

MW-ED691_skidro_20160120195321_ZHThis is an excerpt of a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

The next time you’re racing down the slope of a mountain on your snowboard, look up — a drone may be filming you.

The Federal Aviation Administration has given approval to drone startup Cape Productions to fly drones hundreds of feet closer to people than what was previously allowed in the U.S.

It is currently illegal to operate a drone commercially in the U.S. without a so-called FAA exemption, and all of the exemptions previously granted have prohibited drone operators from flying within 500 feet of people in a public place.

But the FAA has granted Cape permission to do so, marking what could be an important precedent as the FAA continues to deliberate legalizing commercial drone use once and for all.

So how will Cape put this important precedent-setting sanction to use? To capture epic videos of your ski vacation!MW-ED690_graphi_20160120194602_NS

The company operates out of four ski resorts in the U.S. and Canada, including California’s famous Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley and Powder Mountain in Utah. Skiers can purchase a video package from Cape, and the company will fly a drone over them as they descend. They then put the footage together in a keepsake video. It’s the same concept as photos taken of roller coaster riders plunging down a steep slope that are often available for purchase at the gift shop just outside the ride’s exit.

Cape operates on certain slopes at ski resorts and says they notify all skiers they will be filming before skiers run down the mountain.

By granting Cape Productions permission to fly drones close to people in a public setting (versus a “closed” location like a movie set), the FAA may be setting a precedent that would allow many more companies to do the same.

“This is the first time a business like this is even possible,” said Cape Productions CEO Jason Soll.

And it isn’t just the industry for creating rad ski videos that could benefit.

“The most obvious use case of drones flying over people is the case for drone delivery,” said Logan Campbell, CEO of drone consulting firm Aerotas. “When drones have to fly over your house, they have to fly over people to get there. This opens up tons of business use cases.”

Read the rest of this story here.

Everything you need to know about your drone’s remote control

The following is a guest piece written by Chris Szekeres, owner of Tiny Drones

Your RC Transmitter — it may feel familiar, like a gaming controller, or even a steering wheel. But the amount of information you need to successful know your RC transmitter is also quite different from what you’re used to.

Here’s your guide to how your drone controller works and how it can give you a better understanding of flying overall. We are going to use the Hubsan X4 controller for reference throughout this article. You can check out Tiny Drone’s Hubsan X4 Review to learn about the drone itself.

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Yaw & Throttle

The left stick on your controller is what handles the “yaw” and “throttle” of your drone. When you toggle this control stick left and right this will cause the drone’s front to turn along the x-axis in that direction. This is generally used to adjust where you want your unit to turn to. Continue reading Everything you need to know about your drone’s remote control

Yuneec ActionCam is your drone on the ground

Do you ever wish you could have the silky, smooth, “drone like”  video, but of footage close to the ground, and…without actually using the drone?

Maybe you’re a videographer looking for a gliding cruise down the sidewalk, or weaving between a crowded marketplace, but it’s simply too crowded to safely navigate your drone over and around people.

Maybe you want that drone “look” but simply don’t want to worry about packing it all together — the batteries, propellers, RC transmitter.

And maybe you quite simply don’t want to spend the money on the drone, but want to achieve video similar to what a drone produces.

That’s where the Yuneec ActionCam comes in. The $549 ActionCam is a handheld camera stabilization platform that helps photographers make ground shots that are as smooth as the ones taken from the air. It uses the CGO3 camera gimbal — found on many of Yuneec’s existing drones — with a handle for stable ground footage so you can walk with the drone in your hand, without the shaking or wobbling. It looks like you’re simply gliding through the crowd.

I thought it looked nothing like a drone, but apparently the citizens of San Francisco are smarter than me.

“Is that a drone?” a random passerby asked me on a street corner in the Castro district of San Francisco, where I was testing out the ActionCam this weekend.

It’s not — it just uses the same gimbal.

“Is that the next generation of selfies?” another passerby asked me. (Apparently I look quite approachable…or at least the ActionCam does.)

“No, but it’s better,” I responded. Continue reading Yuneec ActionCam is your drone on the ground

4 easy ways to log your drone flights

So you want to log all your drone flights? Good on you!

Here’s the next drone purchase you’ll need to make (that won’t cost an arm and a leg). It’s not some fancy gadget either. It’s a ‘drone logbook,’ and it comes in the form of free smart phone app or tangible notebook.

Why should you log your flights?

It’s a place to store important information — what drone you were using, flight type, location and maintenance concerns.

And if you are flying drones commercially, in the U.S. and many other countries, it’s the law. Commercial operators who have 333 exemptions and “blanket” COAs (Certificate of Waiver or Authorization) are required to file reports with the Federal Aviation Administration

And if — like me — you aren’t a commercial drone operator, it’s just sort of fun to see where you have flown, for how long, and document everything that happened for each flight.

Here are some of my top picks:

hover appHover Continue reading 4 easy ways to log your drone flights

Cirque du Soleil, National Geographic top list of NYC Drone Film Festival nominees

Nominations for the 2nd Annual New York City Drone Film Festival,coming March 4-6, are out.

Out of 330 submissions from 45 countries, the nominees have been whittled down to include Cirque du Soleil’s Sparked, National Geographic’s Lava Chaser, Corridor Digital’s The Smallest Empire, Jordan Rubin’s The Drone and the NBC News coverage of the Nepal Earthquake.

“The quantity and quality of this year’s submissions is outstanding,” said festival founder and director Randy Scott Slavin.

The judges will include Renee Lusano, Eric Cheng and Yahoo Tech founder David Pogue, presenting awards in 14 categories including Best Narrative Film, Best News/Documentary Film, Best Extreme Sports Film and Best Dronie, a selfie taken with a drone.

Here is a complete list of nominees: Continue reading Cirque du Soleil, National Geographic top list of NYC Drone Film Festival nominees

DJI partners with Ford to award $100,000 to top drone developer

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DJI, Ford and the United Nations Development Program recognize how vital drones are to disaster relief. That’s why the three are partnering up to produce the 2016 DJI Developer Challenge — a call for the public to build a robust application system for search and rescue drones. The award for the most successful application? $100,000.

So what do winners need to do? Devise a way to launch a drone from the bed of an F-150 pickup truck, survey the landscape and communicate in real-time using Sync data available.

The second round will be whittled down to 15 teams, which will be provided with DJI’s flagship SDK aerial platform, the Matrice 100, as well as a Zenmuse X3 camera to mount on the Matrice.

This is the third year that DJI has hosted a developer challenge of this nature. This year the focus is on the new Mobile SDK 3.0, an open, flexible software platform. Five teams will be cut, with 10 in the final round, which will require teams to use their app to perform a mock search-and-rescue mission, taking off and landing on a moving Ford F-150 pickup truck and transmitting the data collected.

“Various industries are starting to realize how capable and powerful unmanned aerial vehicles can be,” said Robert Schlub, Vice President of Research and Development at DJI. “As usage cases arise, there will be a growing need for applications. With our developer challenge and new SDK, DJI is doing its utmost to foster an environment that’s conducive to development and creation of those applications.”

The winner of last year’s challenge was UT-Dronefly from the University of Texas at Dallas and Penn State University, whose app was designed to conduct powerline inspection in a safer and more-efficient way. In 2014, the first year of the DJI Developer Challenge, Team BetterW from the South China University of Technology developed a forensics app specifically designed for highway accident investigations.

 

The winner will be announced later this year.

The 13 best drone photos of 2015

SkyPixel, DJI’s aerial photography community, announced the top drone images of 2015.

The winners were chosen out of 10,000 entries submitted from 146 countries to the two-month global competition.

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Kirk Hille, SkyPixel

Pictured above is the year’s overall top photo, called “Surge,” and shot by Kirk Hille. Ken Geiger, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and a SkyPixel competition judge, said “Surge” offered “a unique viewpoint, lovely color and composition” and “made an emotional connection with me, making me wish to be part of the scene,” according to DJI.

And here are other winning photos:

First Prize, Professional Group: Beauty

Populus in the Fall: Hanbing Wang/SkyPixel
Populus in the Fall: Hanbing Wang/SkyPixel

Continue reading The 13 best drone photos of 2015

Disneyland’s “drone show” could have 50 drones in the sky

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This is an excerpt of a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the whole story here.

In the not-too-distant future, when Cinderella looks out her castle window she may spot a drone flying by.

The Walt Disney Co.  has taken the next step in integrating drones into its fireworks shows at Disneyland and Walt Disney World: it has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for what’s called a Section 333 exemption, which allows a company to legally operate drones commercially. Currently, it is otherwise illegal to operate a drone for commercial purposes, though that’s expected to change in 2016.

The drones would fly preprogrammed flight paths and emit LED lights at various intervals, lighting up the sky. Up to 50 drones at one time might be used for nightly firework shows, according to details included in the Section 333 exemption request.

Read the rest of this story here.