Category Archives: Flight Diaries

Flying robots for the masses: How Bezos’ Amazon Drone could be what Steve Jobs was to personal computers

jeffbezosIt’s unrealistic to assume that once 2015 hits, Amazon Drones will take off through the skies, single-handedly bringing a stop to brown UPS trucks.

But when they do take off, it won’t just be Amazon’s drones doing home delivery. Soon enough, Walmart will have a fleet of drones. Target too. Domino’s kinda sorta already has one. Even UPS quickly followed Amazon’s big reveal, reminding the world that they too are working on delivery drones.

Amazon will undoubtedly deliver packages via drones, and I’m sure it’ll happen in our lifetime. But will they corner the market in drone deliveries? Doubt it.

Where Amazon can in fact corner the market is in drone manufacturing. If this all plans out, I predict Amazon will move from enterprise (drone delivery) to manufacturing Amazon-brand drones that consumers can use themselves.

How will Amazon succeed at manufacturing consumer-level drones? Amazon has the brand recognition and economy of scale to undercut current drone makers if they wanted to be a part of the consumer-drone manufacturing market. Look at Kindle. Or purely the fact that with just a short clip on 60 Minutes, they convinced the world of the possible reality of flying packages. Continue reading Flying robots for the masses: How Bezos’ Amazon Drone could be what Steve Jobs was to personal computers

Amazon Prime Air is lots of hoopla, just hold up

Image courtesy of Amazon

Amazon announced their latest R&D project, Amazon Prime Air, to much hoopla yesterday. It’s a delivery system likened to the TacoCopter or Australian company Zookal, which will deliver textbooks with drones.

Drones are always a subject quick to gather cheap and easy media attention. Anytime there is a drone crash or some wacky new use for drones, they are nearly always guaranteed to land some sort of media attention. So it’s no surprise that Amazon Prime Air, or the #AmazonDrone on the Interwebz, is what’s keeping water coolers and Facebook news feeds abuzz these days. Now I can buy literally anything (sold on Amazon and weighing under 5 pounds) and have it delivered in 30 minutes?

Should we greet this news with excitement? Fear? Or simply chalk it up to an epic Cyber Monday PR stunt?

“One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” Amazon’s new Prime Air page states. That’s an accurate assumption, Amazon. Drones have already proven more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective for a myriad of enterprise operations.

“We hope the FAA’s rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015,” the text states. “We will be ready at that time.”

Hold up, slow down. This is what seems to be causing much hullabaloo. The fear of drones buzzing through the skies is certainly worth having, but it’s not completely rational given the limitations of the technology.

Drones can’t legally be used for commercial purposes until the FAA says so. That won’t be until at least 2015, according to the FAA’s Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap. Emphasis on the “at least.” Continue reading Amazon Prime Air is lots of hoopla, just hold up

17 reasons why drones will change your life

17. PIZZA.  Delivery of pizza. Literally flying right into your hands. Like, Domino’s is testing pizza delivery with a drone.

16. Baywatch, turned robot. Replace your lifeguard with a drone. That’s right — GPS-enabled drones can help someone drowning by dropping floatation devices.

15. More wine, better wine. Viticulturists could fly drones over vineyards and spot differences in rows, allowing them to know where to irrigate, inspect or harvest. That’s not something anyone can whine about.

14.  Keeping the doctors away, with more apples everyday! That’s because researchers are using multispectral aerial images of orchards to hone in on colors and temperatures to locate a fungus, known as the apple scab. This is putting more apples into your hands.

13. Or, bringing doctors to you! Matternet is using drones to ferry medical supplies to hard-to-reach regions of the earth. One of their missions flew medical supplies into a camp housing survivors of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Continue reading 17 reasons why drones will change your life

Flight diaries: learning lots Drone Girl

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Photo of me toting around two 3D Robotics Y6 copters, by my coworker and resident drone expert Brandon Basso.

Hello Dronies!

It’s been a while since my last Flight Diary. It’s also been crazy busy as Drone Girl. I haven’t been flying as much as I’d like to, but it’s ok, because I’ve been learning more than I think I ever wanted to!

When I started Drone Girl (in June) I was living in Southern California and had just purchased a DJI Phantom, where I experimented with flying and making video mashups of my flights. In just 4 months, I’ve moved to Northern California, been able to do consulting to help others learn how to use drones, gotten to attend intelligent discussions on drones such as the Stanford Berkeley Robotics Symposium or the Commonwealth Club’s Eyes in the Sky: Drones in Law Enforcement event, learned the basics of mechanics and built my own drone, and so much more.

The best part is the incredible people I’ve met.  I’ve met 12-year-old kids who are already using Arduino to make their own projects. I’ve met farmers interested in ways to revolutionize the way they irrigate, spray pesticides or harvest their crops because of drones. I’ve met and worked with an entire newsroom who sees the value that drones could bring to their reporting.

All because I started a blog out of curiosity for a controversial new technology.

So what’s next for Drone Girl?

The sky’s the limit as they say. I want to encourage kids to pursue the educational intersection of science and math with art and creativity. I hope to continue to spread awareness through media of the positive ways we can use technology. And of course, I want to continue to learn more about drones! Happy flying!

History of drones: Navy drones in the 50s and 60s

The following piece is a family history on military drone use. Note that Drone Girl is not an advocate for military drone use, but rather is interested in exploring and researching both their modern day and historical military uses. The ‘drones’ generally referred to on Drone Girl are currently not fully autonomous. The definition of drone is quite broad, and consumer drones operate much differently than a military drone.

The cool thing about being a drone girl is that so many people want to share their stories — my family included.

Photo courtesy of Tom Anderson
Photo of Grumman F6F Hellcat Airworthy Warbird courtesy of Tom Anderson

Did you know that in the military, drones (defined as pilotless aircraft) aren’t the ones destroying targets, but were the ones being fired at for development?

I didn’t until I just learned that my great uncle, Tom Anderson, was a Navy Pilot from 1958 to the early 1960s in the Target Department at the Naval Air Missile Center in Point Mugu, Ca., just south of Oxnard. His role was providing drones as targets for the development of various missiles, mostly air to air missiles.

Military use of drones is a recent topic in the news, and a lot of people (myself included) certainly fear the concept of a little drone flying over an location in the world and dropping a bomb. But few people (again, myself included) know of how drones have been used for decades.

“With my background in drones, over the years I’ve tended to follow the news with interest,” he said. “The technology improvements have been amazing, opening the doors for many uses. If their practical use approaches the theoretical then significant regulation will be needed in the interest of safety.” Continue reading History of drones: Navy drones in the 50s and 60s

Drones don’t just make pretty photos

Today’s blog post comes from a question I got via Twitter from @Elise12192, a science and health journalism student.

twitterquestionShe asks, “Are drones only for the professional photog or are they becoming accessible to hobbyists? (Price, skills required, etc.)”

Well Elise, that’s a great question! There are tons of drones with all different purposes, ranging from children’s toy, to a vehicle that can mount a GoPro, to a drone that can hold a heavy dSLR. Then there are drones that don’t even carry cameras but rather GPS trackers, infrared cameras, or contraptions that can collect particles in the air. A simple search today on Amazon.com for drone comes up with 10,976 results, meaning there are already tons of drones, accessories and parts on the market.

The cheapest drone I’ve seen with a camera on it is the Badboy Quadcopter for $74, though don’t expect that to be great quality. That’s something accessible to low-level hobbyists who just want a cool photo.

On the other hand, it’s not just professional photographers doing great things with drones, though the incredible work by my favorite drone photographers like Wild Pilots, Team BlackSheep and Drone Dudes are hard to ignore.

Drones have been used for years by non photographers!

Continue reading Drones don’t just make pretty photos