Category Archives: Flight Diaries

The four kinds of drone geeks

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

I was one credit away from graduating college when I first learned what a drone was. It’s not just something for the military, and it’s not something far off in the future.

It’s actually something you can buy for a few hundred dollars at Brookstone or B&H Photo, and it’s something that college campuses are turning into curriculum.

To graduate, I audited a course for one credit on drone journalism. That’s a course where they teach how newsrooms will one day all have drones to take pictures or gather news information from the air.

Media often portrays this new wave of drones as a mechanism of tracking endangered rhinos or shooting Hollywood films. But when I moved from rural Missouri to San Francisco, I found that drones weren’t actually that uncommon. For a growing number of people, they’re a way of life.

They fly over outdoor concerts. Two friends texted me that they saw a drone flying over this year’s commencement ceremony at UC Berkeley. I’ve spotted one outside my apartment complex. Drones are becoming more ubiquitous and easy to spot; the key is finding the operator behind it.

So who is flying them? Like most areas of tech, the drone industry is overwhelmingly male. And many people have different reasons for using a drone. If there was a Breakfast Club sequel solely for drones, this would be the cast.

The tinkerer. He’s an avid participator on a forum for RC enthusiasts. He built his drone himself in a garage using some PVC pipes and an Arduino. He probably belongs to a model RC club and flies it above the high school track on weekends to test out his latest build.

That guy with too much money. He wants a Tesla. He camped out in front of the Apple Store for an iPhone. Now he flies a drone. He’s the guy who foregoes the camera-with-a-timer-on-a-tripod trick to take family photos. His Christmas card picture was taken with a drone. After he finishes his sand volleyball tournament, he goes to take some pictures of the beach, using a drone of course.

The entrepreneur. He has a million ideas for a new startup that involves a drone. Beer delivery? Dry cleaning delivery? Taco delivery? His investment cost was no more than the $1000 price tag on a drone. Perhaps one day his business will be worth as much as Snapchat.

This story continues on MarketWatch.com. Read it here.

Merry Christmas from Drone Girl!

Thanks to you, our readers, for a great year of learning, researching and of course, drone flying!  Have a safe and happy holidays, and perhaps you can even spend this day flying your drones!

photo

Thanks to reader Davis Hunt for sharing this photo, taken by Instagrammer thorvath0715.

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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