All posts by Sally French

Everyone is getting drones stuck in their hair

Source: Reddit/Rowdybob22
Source: Reddit/Rowdybob22

The biggest drone disaster of 2016 so far? Drones are getting stuck in people’s hair.

It all started with this photo trending on Reddit on Monday that shows a girl with a drone stuck in her hair.

But it turns out that in the weeks following Christmas, drone hair disasters have been pretty common. Be safe out there.

Continue reading Everyone is getting drones stuck in their hair

6 tips for better aerial photography with a drone

The following article is written by Thomas Foster who is an owner of website and a quadcopter enthusiast.

So you have a drone, and now you want to make better pictures? Here are 6 tips to get started:

Brendan Wong/SkyPixel
Brendan Wong/SkyPixel

•Choose the right time: The landscape can change dramatically over the year, and even through a day. Try shooting the same spot at different times to see the differences, or if there’s one specific shot you want, pay attention to where the sun will be to avoid unwanted shadows.

Some photographers swear by shooting at “The Golden Hour,” which is generally the first hour of light after sunrise, and the last hour of light before sunset. The sun is low in the sky, producing a diffused soft light that provides the opposite effect to harsh midday sun shadows.

•Adjust the camera settings: The key factors you need to understand are ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

ISO: indicates the level of sensitivity of your camera to light. A low ISO number (ie. 100 or 200) indicates low sensitivity to available light. Photographers on a bright, sunny day would want a low ISO. A high ISO number indicates high sensitivity to light, which you would want if you were shooting indoors or at night. The higher the ISO, the more grain you will see in your images.

Victor Wang/SkyPixel
Victor Wang/SkyPixel

Shutter Speed: This is the amount of time a camera shutter is open to allow light into the sensor. Slow shutter speeds allow more light in and are ideal for shooting at night, but could also cause more blur. High shutter speeds allow less time for light to enter the sensor, meaning your picture could turn out darker. The photo above has a relatively slow shutter speed to show the motion of the cars. Continue reading 6 tips for better aerial photography with a drone

4 controversies that will define drones in 2016

2015 was a whirlwind year for drones — consumer drone sales hit records, the FAA called for drone registration, and the commercial drone regulation deadline was missed. We saw drones epically (and dangerously) crash, and we also saw epic innovation in the technology, with everything from improved cameras to quads that are easier to fly than ever.

So what can we expect to see in 2016? Here are 4 controversies that will continue to develop, be resolved, or lead to even greater debate in a community that is rapidly innovating:

REGISTRATION:  The Federal Aviation Administration in mid-December announced a rule requiring drone owners to register their vehicles by Feb. 19, 2016.

Drone owners will have to register through a website for $5 per drone owner, in line with current FAA requirements for registering an aircraft. To encourage registration, the FAA said it would refund the $5 fee for drones registered in the first 30 days of the site’s availability, through Jan. 20. Registration will cover all of an owner’s drones weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds.

The purpose: The purpose is two-fold: the first is to identify users of drones that go rogue (ie. crash somewhere they aren’t supposed to be and the owner can’t be found). It’s also to force a small amount of education upon users and to symbolically state that drones are tools, not toys.

The controversy: Some have felt that registration is unnecessary, imposing, costly, will just turn into one more dataset to be hacked and won’t achieve anything. The thinking is reckless drone operators won’t actually register, while responsible pilots will, so there is no purpose in going through the hassle of the process.

Others feel that it is not too burdensome, but could go a long way in preventing cases of people who simply don’t know they are near an airport or not to fly over people. It’s a small step in preventing greater harm.

The Drone Girl prediction: Despite some saying that what the FAA is doing is illegal, the process will go on and users will have to register. It likely won’t be enforced 100% in the sense that 99% of drone users will get away with never being registered (cops have other things to enforce), but we will see some cases of operators being prosecuted.

Final Preparations At SZ DJI Technology Co. First Flagship Store As It Opens
Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

GEOFENCING: DJI in November announced a software update to its drones designed to limit flying over sensitive areas like prisons and airports. It currently uses geofencing, a software feature that acts as a virtual barrier, to completely prevent its drones from flying over “no-fly-zones,” which are mostly airports and Washington, D.C. DJI’s new system will provide temporary access to restricted flight zones to drone operators with verified DJI accounts registered with a credit card, debit card or mobile phone number.

The controversy: Some have felt that limiting where people can fly infringes on one’s freedom to fly a drone. Many are worried about the technological implementation.

Others feel Continue reading 4 controversies that will define drones in 2016

I registered my drone. Here’s why you should too.

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

I registered my drone this week, as required by a new Federal Aviation Administration rule.

The FAA last week announced that it would open a new site for drone users to register. The site launched on Monday, and drone owners must register by Feb. 19, 2016 or face up to a $250,000 fine.

Here’s how registration works:

I logged onto the site and entered my name, home address and email address.

There is a registration fee, so I also had to enter my credit card information. The registration fee is $5 per drone owner — the same $5 processing fee charged for any aircraft registration — but the FAA says it will refund the $5 fee for drones registered through Jan. 20 to encourage participation.

Once I hit the “next” button, I received a personal identification number and certificate to print out (though like most millennials, I don’t have a printer). I did write the identification number on a sticker, which I then pasted on my drone, an original DJI Phantom that I have been flying since early 2013.

By the time I entered my credit card number, the entire process took somewhere between two and three minutes.

That’s it! I am now a registered drone operator.

Why does the FAA want people to register?

The FAA anticipates that 1 million drones will be sold at Christmas, meaning an unprecedented number of people will be flying drones soon. Many of them may not have any education in safe airspace practices or operating remote-control aircraft.

Drones have been spotted flying too close to airports as airplanes are taking off, a drone crashed near the White House in early January, and an 18-month-old boy’s eye was sliced in half after he was hit in the head by a crashing drone.

Drones are easy to fly, but they’re not completely idiot-proof. Just a few things that could go wrong: An improperly installed propeller could pop off mid-flight, causing a crash. The GPS may not have been set properly, resulting in a flyaway drone.

Registration is intended to force some education upon pilots who may not have malicious intent, but also may not have read the “Know Before You Fly” guidelines included with most drone purchases in the U.S. It also means that government and law enforcement officials will be able to track down reckless drone operators — something that, until now, they haven’t been able to do.

So what’s all the fuss about?

I expect that few drone operators will ever register their drones.

In many cases, this may simply be because they don’t realize they are now required to register. The FAA has posted the new rule to its social media platforms, but has admitted it is mostly dependent on media outlets to spread the word.

And, in most cases, nothing bad will come of this — no drone will crash and burn, no operator will get fined for doing nothing more than flying without an ID number. No one will be the wiser.

But there has been a highly charged, negative reaction to registration among drone operators (at least those discussing the FAA rule in online forums and web communities). People really don’t want to register their drones. Given how easy it is, why are people so against it?

Read the rest of this story here.

Attention filmmakers: you still have a week to enter the NYC Drone Film Festival

Have an awesome film that you shot with a drone?

The 2016 New York City Drone Film Festival is accepting submissions through 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31 for its festival at the Directors Guild of America Theater and the Liberty Science Center, from March 4- March 6.

For an idea of what you’re up against, here were some of last year’s winners:

Narrative and Best in Show Winner:

X-Factor Winner: Continue reading Attention filmmakers: you still have a week to enter the NYC Drone Film Festival

The incredible DJI Flagship store is now open — see pictures

dji flagship store

The DJI Flagship store opened today — and it looks insanely awesome.

The 8,600-square-foot store is located in Shenzhen, China and is DJI’s next step in engaging with “customers in a deeper and more meaningful way,” said DJI founder and CEO Frank Wang.

dji flagship store

And it’s not just the sheer size that makes it stand out — it’s the architecture. It’s based on the concept of yuan「圓」, the Chinese word for “circular,” and is intended to symbolize drone propellers. Continue reading The incredible DJI Flagship store is now open — see pictures

Land surveying with drones: meet Heller Gregory

unnamedThe next in our series of Drone Girl profiles is with Heller Gregory, thepresident and chief pilot of GrandView Services (named after her grade school in Southern California), which provides aerial data for mapping, inspection, monitoring and maintenance.

What’s your business all about?

My husband has a soil engineering business in Walnut Creek, where he does landslide repair and grading. I had a pilot’s license. He thought it might be good to survey land with a drone. I mostly work on projects for his business, often where he repairs landslides in people’s backyards.  I use 3D photogrammetry software to do the rendering and then monitor the photos for movement. Every couple months or so as they’re repairing it, I’ll conduct a flight and make sure there’s no movement. That offers a great view — there’s no other way of doing it.

What software and hardware do you use?

I’m using both Pix4D and ReCap 360 from Autodesk. As far as gear, I just have an IRIS+. I’m collecting the data with a GoPro, which is all I need. I don’t need the big expensive drone.unnamed

How did you get into drones?

I pretty much got into it because it seemed like a viable industry that’s coming up. I’ve always been pretty tech savvy and on top of the new technology that’s going on.

I’m an empty nester, and this fell together perfectly. With my boys out of the house, I was looking for a job. So I just created my own job.  Continue reading Land surveying with drones: meet Heller Gregory

5 drones to consider for Christmas this year

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

Expecting a drone under your Christmas tree this year? You’re not alone: The Federal Aviation Administration expects that up to one million drones will be sold as Christmas presents this year.

Here are some of the drones worth considering:

BERLIN, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 03: Visitors look at a Phantom 3 Standard quadcopter drone at the DJI stand during a press day at the 2015 IFA consumer electronics and appliances trade fair on September 3, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The 2015 IFA will be open to the public from September 4-9. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Your first drone

What: Phantom 3 Standard

Price: $699

Chinese drone-maker DJI’s Phantom 3 Standard is an ideal drone for amateur to semi-professional photographers or filmmakers. It’s ready to fly out of the box and has the ability to record 2.7K video and 12-megapixel photos.

For the dedicated photographer

What: Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K

Price: $1,199

This flying camera boats a 4K, 3-axis stabilized camera with ultra-high-definition resolution that is four times higher than HD. The Typhoon Q500 4K also comes with a built-in video feed to the transmitter, allowing pilots to see what the drone sees from their handheld RC transmitter.

See my other picks here.