Category Archives: Flight Diaries

Do’s and Don’ts of first-time drone piloting for photographers

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Do: Take drone selfies!!

As more and more people find out I’m a Drone Girl, more photographer people want to get into drones for aerial photography purposes themselves! Drone World is uncharted territory so there is no right way to do something, but here is some Drone Girl advice for where to start.

Don’t invest in a lot initially. You will crash. You might lose it in a tree (true story for a later date). You will lose control of it. Your propellers will break.

Do invest in a cheap drone to get the flying basics down. Piloting these things require intense hand-eye coordination. ‘Yaw left! Roll right!’ What does that stuff even mean? Well you can practice how to control it, and learn all that fancy terminology, on a drone you won’t feel bad breaking, because trust me, you will. How about this lil guy that looks like a UFO, from the Amazon toy section.
And for the record, I still don’t know what yaw left means.

Don’t cheap out when you’re buying the real deal. You can buy cheaper drones that look similar at places like Brookstone, but just know you get what you pay for, and the quality or ability to upgrade camera capabilities probably won’t be a thing.

Do buy a good quality drone. As cliché as it is, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to drones. I’m someone who wants a drone that works out of the box, so I’d recommend something like the 3D Robotics Iris or the DJI Phantom.

Do buy a GoPro. I’m obsessed with them. You can chuck them off buildings and send them underwater, and they’re foolproof. They shoot HD quality video and can connect to your SmartPhone. Fancy! Continue reading Do’s and Don’ts of first-time drone piloting for photographers

Drone, UAV, or creepy robot bird: What do we call these things?

Photo of me flying at Balboa Island by my flying buddies over at www.wildpilots.com.
Photo of me flying at Balboa Island by my flying buddies over at www.wildpilots.com.

I’ve been a drone girl for the past few months now, and the one debate hotter than banning/regulating drones is what to call them.
Many people refer to them as drones. And many other people stop me mid-sentence, as soon as the word drone is used.

It’s no secret: drones have a negative connotation, largely because of military implications. However, the drones on this blog, and that are being discussed for FAA regulation, are far from that. These drones are $700 flying, hovering aircrafts where cameras can be attached to gather images from a different viewpoint. They deliver wedding cakes and save rhinos by spotting poachers.

So should we refer to them as the same name as a totally different piece of equipment that has been used for war? Continue reading Drone, UAV, or creepy robot bird: What do we call these things?

#DroneLyfe: Pros and Cons

One of my best friends admits she is slightly repulsed by drones. Supportive, right? But we both agree that drones are compelling, and can be used for both good and bad.

If I had a dollar for every time someone suggested how I could use my drone to spy on or sneak into people’s homes, I would be able to buy a completely new drones. But those are actually awful suggestions, and I’m the first to say that would be horrible if people did that.

With any new technology, there are pros and cons.

*this list does not include attack/military drones, but rather refers to drones on the average consumer market.

Pros Cons
Opportunities for use are endless! Set up a Google news alert with the word drone, and every day you’ll probably get a new story about some scientist or businessperson using drones for a new creative use. Whether it’s spotting pollution in a river or delivering pizza, people are constantly thinking of ways to use drones. Opportunities for use are endless. Would it be incredibly easy to fly over private land and trespass without even hopping over barbed wire and fighting off guard dogs? Yes. You could really easily enter someone’s private property and spy or gather information. But that’s illegal, and all around not cool.
Cheap alternative to helicopters: rather than pay the fuel cost, the pilot fees, etc., a drone can do a similar job for a fraction of the cost. Researchers trying to spot animals or TV stations showing traffic often rely on helicopters, and this could reduce that need Drone pilots don’t have certifications like helicopter pilots (yet): But should they? This is a great debate, and for hobby use, I don’t think a certification is necessary at this point. But if drones are going to be as common as helicopters, there needs to be some degree of regulation so they don’t hit each other, and so only qualified pilots are flying over dense areas like freeways.
Can squeeze into tight spaces: A helicopter can’t fly through forests or into tight alleys. Imagine a car chase. Instead of sending police officers at dangerous speeds through populated areas, a drone could do the same, or at least track the suspect in dense areas like alleys or forests. Definitely creep factor here. It would be easy to hover in a forest or alley, but again,  that’s creepy, so just don’t do it.
Loud and large: This is a good thing, because it makes drones so that you can’t really spy on people. People see a drone and think something along the lines of it being a UFO, and that’s good, because then it helps people be aware of their surroundings. Loud and large: The loud buzz can certainly be annoying, and they can get heavy and cumbersome to transport, but definitely the related pro outweighs the cons here.
New technology: now is the time to research and engineer this product. The more consumers buy them, the more money and suggestions engineers will have to improve them. The technology has faults and is far from perfect – a mix of both equipment and human error. They crash. Maybe a propeller pops off, or the software just crashes. No technology is ever perfect, but it should be pretty close to that before we send these up in the air on a mainstream level. 

Meetup with other SoCal dronies!

Screen shot 2013-08-03 at 7.41.27 PMToday I met the fine folks of the LA/OC Drone User Group!

Let me tell you, this is a brilliant, passionate group of people. They fly drones for different reasons; some like to build, and others like to gather unique video. If you are in the area and interested in drones, this is the place to be! I came for fly day, where I met tons of people who have built their own stuff from scratch, used kits, and really know all about gear.

And then there’s people like me (ok, really just me) who have no idea about gear and just want to learn. Everyone is groovy and helpful, and I learned a ton! We flew around a big dirt field, and my Phantom held up against all the other spiffy gear these guys have. Drone people are great!

Find Drone Girl elsewhere on the web

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Can’t get enough of Drone Girl? Eh, I’m willing to bet you can. But if you absolutely, positively can’t, then find me on Twitter and Instagram!

Check out my Twitter account, @TheDroneGirl, to get links to some of my top blog posts, as well as links to other relevant drone stories in the news, and the most up-to-date information on where Drone Girl is flying next.

For photos posted here (as well as some bonus, never-before-seen images) in vintage, vignetted, sepia-toned glory, then check out my Instagram account. It’s my personal account, so you’ll have to put up with lots of sans-drone photos, including many from my kitchen documenting my obsessive cooking habit. But you’ll also get an occasional drone picture thrown in there!

I’m always looking for suggestions, so let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below or through my contact page!

Flight diaries: Catching up with Drone Girl

Screen shot 2013-07-18 at 8.58.58 PMAnother week has flown by (no pun intended), and the drone is still going strong. But where is Drone Girl headed next? That’s up in the air.

With another week of flying under my belt, I’ve definitely been thinking more visually now, rather than just using a fancy technology. There should be a purpose for using a technology, and I think drones can put a lot of things in perspective via an aerial view. I’m recently most proud of my golf course photo, which I think accomplishes that. The photo shows the viewer how close the tees are to each other, what surrounds each hole, how large each hole is, etc. That’s something that your standard golf match photo can’t show. I studied photojournalism in college, so now that I’m better at flying, I want to think about good photography practices — visually appealing images (ie the good ole’ rule of thirds, leading lines, etc) that don’t just rely on the novelty factory of an aerial angle.

I’m considering doing video. It’ll take more time and effort, but in the next few weeks, I’m going to experiment with short videos. Stay tuned, and thanks for keeping up with Drone Girl!

Week Two thought roundup

Screen shot 2013-07-07 at 12.06.22 PMIt’s been two weeks since I flew my DJI Phantom on its maiden voyage– crazy that it hasn’t been that long. Anyway, here are my first impressions on the first couple weeks.

Everyone has been so nice and friendly! I’ll be walking through a park and so many people will make a quick comment like ‘cool copter.’ Other times people will ask what is it. And I’ll fly, and then people get interested and ask tons of questions. I love when people ask questions! It’s great to see curiosity and friendliness within the community. People want to ask what I’m doing, where I got my drone, etc. Continue reading Week Two thought roundup

Meet my drone(s)

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So it’s time I share my gear with you. As I am a mere hobbyist, my gear is (relatively) simple and cheap. I was a bit hesitant to share my gear, including the cost, but in an effort to be transparent about this hobby, I thought you should know.

The first drone I ever bought was a Syma X1 4 Channel 2.4G RC Quadcopter, with a bumble bee shell. I got this because before I started flying around with my pricier drone, I wanted to practice on this one. If you want to buy a drone, I recommend you invest in a cheap, practice one first!

The controls require some hand-eye coordination, though for people who played video games growing up, it seems to feel natural (I spent my childhood playing with Barbies and my parents wouldn’t let me have video games). Thus, I’ve gotten this little guy stuck in trees and on top of roofs. Never fear, I’m a much better pilot now. Here are the deets on the BeeCopter.

  • Name: Syma X1 4 Channel 2.4G RC Quad Copter – BumbleBee
  • Where to buy: Amazon.com (toys and game section!)
  • Price: $43
  • Producer: Syma
  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Pros: Cheap, light, easy to fly, durable, also comes in a UFO design (but the bee is way cuter!)
  • Cons: Can’t attach a camera to it, doesn’t really do anything except (if you’re an experienced pilot) be a fun pet toy or cool party trick

Continue reading Meet my drone(s)