All posts by Sally French

The perfect solution for when all your friends ask you what drone they should buy

I know it’s happened to you. Someone knows you have a drone, and suddenly they want one. But instead of researching it themselves, they ask you what to buy.

“My budget is, like, $200.”

“It has to be a really good drone though.”

“Like, it has to take high-quality pictures.”

“But like, how long is the battery life?”

“Ok maybe I’ll up my budget to no more than $400..but only if you insist.”

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And in flies Drone Configurator. It was created by my friends at Drone Life. Simply select the type from a series of choices including price range, camera, application and type, and the database sorts through more than 200 models of drones to help you find one based on your criteria.

Happy flying (and buying)!

Martha Stewart releases drone-generated images of her farm

They’re no fireworks, but Martha Stewart posted new pictures of her farm to her blog — and naturally they were taken with a drone.

The pictures were taken by one of her security detail, Dominic Arena, who recently purchased a DJI Phantom, Stewart wrote on her blog.

“These drone-like, radio controlled aircraft are lots of fun to play with and they take extraordinary photos,” she wrote. “However,  controlling them takes practice and getting used to.  Since my farm has lots of open fields, Dominic thought it would be the best place to get acquainted with his new toy.”

See more photos and read the rest of her post over on her blog.

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3 drones that happened because of Kickstarter

Sure, a potato salad has generated $30,000 in pledges on Kickstarter. But drones have landed on Kickstarter too, and many have been quite successful. Here are 4 drones that exist because of Kickstarter:

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The Pocket Dronethis multicopter is powerful enough to carry a GoPro and folds up smaller than a 7 -inch tablet. The 1-pound drone works out of the box and offers 20 minutes of flight-time. This drone looks like an awesome tool to fit inside a purse or backpack to have for on the fly aerial photography. According to its website, the drone will ship late summer 2014. If you missed your chance to pledge in the Kickstarter, the drone now sells online for $549 + shipping.

Number of Backers: 1,946

Goal: $35,000

Amount pledged: $929,212

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AirDogthis small, foldable quadcopter holds a GoPro and markets itself as “the world’s first auto-follow drone for GoPro camera” — sort of like a dog. There’s also an AirLeash, a small waterproof computerized tracker that sends signals to the AirDog, indicating exact movement trajectory. An alarm on the AirLeash indicates low battery and the drone automatically lands and takes-off.

The pictures on the drone show slightly different colors…I’m hoping this means an interchangeable body and arms…rainbow drones, anyone?

Number of Backers: 771

Goal: $200,000

Amount pledged: $704,310 Continue reading 3 drones that happened because of Kickstarter

Are drones illegal in your state? This map can tell you.

This post was originally written by me for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire, original version of the story there.

As the federal government decides how to regulate drones in the U.S., states are moving on their own. Check out the status of drone legislation in your state here.

There is currently no federal regulation of unmanned aircraft, but Congress passed a law two years ago ordering the FAA to issue national rules legalizing drones for commercial purposes by September 2015.

In 2011, the FAA penalized drone videographer Rapheal Pirker $10,000 for using a drone. Pirker challenged the fine, and a federal administrative-law judge overturned the penalty, saying there was no law banning the commercial use of small drones.

The FAA on Monday released its interpretation of rules for model aircraft after recent incidents involving reckless use of drones. The FAA states that hobby or recreational flying doesn’t require FAA approval, but recommends following their safety guidelines, which encourage contacting the airport operator when flying within 5 miles of an airport, not flying near manned aircraft or beyond the operator’s line of sight. It also specifies model aircraft as weighing fewer than 55 lbs.

Read the rest of the story at its original location on MarketWatch.com.

Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

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Photo courtesy Skysense

Andrea Puiatti knows a problem when he sees one. And it only took him 6 months to come up with a solution that could further disrupt an industry you thought couldn’t get any more revolutionary.

Puiatti is the CEO of Skysense, a company that creates portable charging pads that automatically charge your drone, no humans to plug it in required.

Here’s how it works: Your drone flies miles away from you. The battery has probably lasted 20 minutes — 30 minutes on a good day. Your drone autonomously lands — but not just anywhere — on a portable landing pad no more than the size of a bath mat, which you’ve set up ahead of time. Wires connected to the drone touch the pad, and through direct contact, the batteries on the drone immediately start charging. Once charged, the drone takes off and resumes the mission you’ve programmed for it.

“This solves two problems,” Puiatti said. “The first, it enables you to manage the operation remotely. Second, you can have a drone that takes off at any time without human intervention to change the battery, thus enabling fully autonomous missions.”

Andrea says the charging is just as efficient as if you were to plug the battery charger in the socket wall.

The product would enable a drone to have full automation, particularly useful in cases such as inspection, security and agriculture, and it has a retail price between $1000-1500 dollars. Continue reading Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

Why it’s okay to say ‘drones’ (seriously, that’s what they’re called)

The following piece is an excerpt from a story written by Andrew Chapman, CEO of Skymount, a Vancouver-based company  that provides civilian aerial drone services. Chapman chatted with me as well as a few others in the drone space, including Mike Winn of San Francisco-based Drone Deploy. Read the full story here.

Within some parts of the industry there is a strange aversion to the word ‘drone’, and a great deal of effort is being spent in trying to install some other label in its place.

Even if we all agreed it was a good idea to change from drone to another name and went to great expense launching a worldwide marketing blitz to advertise it, at best we could succeed only in changing the terminology within our industry while the rest of the world continues calling them drones. It is a futile exercise.

For better or worse there is no central arbiter of the english language, it is an organic and evolving beast, a product of the constant flow of media and literature references running through our society. Our industry itself is a tiny, tiny dot within the maelstrom of media discussions and debate around the uses and impacts of this technology for humanity, and no amount of drum beating will convince the much larger majority to stop using a word that they’re perfectly happy with.

Google can also help to show us what images are associated with these terms. When we do an image search for ‘drone’ the results are a fairly balanced mix of military and civilian examples (slightly more commercial than military):

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However, when we search for ‘UAV’ and ‘UAS’ the images returned are almost entirely military:

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The story continues on Skymount.com.

Phantom 2 Vision+ is the most killer drone out there

Photo courtesy of Rhett Lewis, Atomic City Films
Photo courtesy of Rhett Lewis, Atomic City Film.

I spent this past weekend at Cine Gear Expo LA at Paramount Studios with some really talented filmmakers, primarily hanging out at the CopterShop and DJI tent (oh, also the In-N-Out truck), working with a ton of filmmakers on integrating drones into their tool bag of camera equipment.

If you didn’t get to spend your weekend surrounded by Phantom 2 Vision +’s like I did, or never have in your life, you are missing out. Because what are we recommending filmmakers use? This guy! The Phantom 2 Vision +! And I can say, spending an entire weekend with the Phantom 2 Vision + has me hooked.

I bought my Phantom 1 about this time last year, and I have so many regrets not waiting for this one! It’s everything you could want, ready to go in one piece. Gimbal? Check. HD camera? Check. Adorable design? Check.

It turns out my friends and really talented film producers Rhett and Burke Lewis at Atomic City Film use a Phantom themselves. In fact, here’s a promo video they made of the Phantom.

Advice: skip the Phantom 1. You’ll have to mess around with adding on a gimbal and FPV (first-person view,where you can see exactly what the camera is seeing, live) yourself. This all -in-one package is reasonably priced considering how much it would cost to buy each of these items on its own.

The Phantom 2 Vision + is on sale for $1299 at CopterShop right now — check it out for yourself!

Okay, disclaimer, if you’re trying to shoot Skyfall or the Smurfs 2, maybe you want to go with something a little more professional (that can hold a dSLR or RED Epic). But if you’re on a budget, this drone is your best friend.

So it’s safe to say this is on my Christmas-in-July wishlist this year.

The Wild West: the time has come to adopt UAV safety systems

Bundeswehr Holds Media DayThis post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Drone Girl. Got a news tip, commentary or are otherwise interested in working with Drone Girl? Contact us here!

The following post is a guest piece by Davis Hunt, the Owner of ViewPoint Aviation, a company focused on UAS’s. Davis has 20+ years experience in commercial aviation and the UAS sphere. ViewPoint Aviation is eagerly working within the UAS community to safely and efficiently integrate drones into the NAS.

The emergence of the UAS industry (non-defense specific) represents a landmark moment in aviation history. The UAS industry will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and create technologically innovative solutions for a variety of industries.

Even with the unbound potential of the unmanned marketplace, the UAS industry has to overcome two perceptions that have been established by media reporting to date: drones as a weapon and drones are for spying. As a commercial operator, these are biases that I encounter literally every day, and do my best to overcome.

In the process of overcoming these perceptions, we are literally in the midst of the “wild west” mindset of an industry. With the Pirker case headed for the Court of Appeals, and realistically, any non-binding cease and desist letter from the FAA not providing actual deterrent, everyone feels equal footing in UAS operation. Continue reading The Wild West: the time has come to adopt UAV safety systems