Category Archives: Flight Diaries

Will we see drones manufactured in the U.S.?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone manufacturing. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Do you think we will see Drones manufactured in the U.S.? There are many fine products on the market at this time but of course we feel a loyalty to our country! I own 5 drones so far !


Hey Pat!

You bring up a very interesting point. While I would also love to buy American-made products to support U.S. businesses, the reality is, most of the drones in the world are not made in the U.S.

There have been a number of attempts at U.S. manufactured drones, but none have succeeded. “Solo” drone maker 3D Robotics was based in Berkeley, Calif, with a large office in San Diego, Calif. (its main manufacturing plant was just across the border in Tijuana, Mexico) but it has since transitioned away from manufacturing commercial drones after laying off a number of staff. San Mateo, Calif.-based GoPro also laid off employees after recalling its Karma drone because they were falling from the sky.  Though, the Karma drone is back on the market. In January, the makers of San Francisco-based Lily, a widely-hyped drone that never actually made it to market, announced they were calling it quits and would refund those who made pre-orders.

The major companies that are left — DJI, Yuneec and Autel — are all Chinese companies, and many of the smaller drone companies are also mostly based outside of the U.S.

I discussed this phenomenon with Steve McIrvin, CEO of Autel Robotics USA. Continue reading Will we see drones manufactured in the U.S.?

How to use a drone for aerial thermography

As thermal sensors become smaller, lighter, less expensive and more widely available on drones, more commercial drone applications are integrating aerial thermography.

Drones with thermal cameras are being used for inspecting HVAC units, wind turbines, cell towers, roofs, or finding missing people. And more drone companies are making it easy to incorporate thermal imaging in drones.

At the Consumer Electronics Show 2017, Autel announced a new camera for its X-Star, a FLIR Duo dual thermal and visual camera module, which can show thermal and standard, visual light images. It allows users to switch between the two in-flight, view both at the same time with picture-in-picture, or see a blended image of both, and will launch in the first quarter of 2017.

Yuneec also announced its H520, a six-rotor drone for commercial applications. One of its camera options is the CGO-ET dual thermal RGB camera.

But what are clients looking for in terms of data gathering? How do you handle post-processing of data? How can you build an aerial thermal imaging business?  UAV Coach, which has had tremendous success in its FAA Part 107 course (I used it, and passed my own Part 107!), is now launching a course on Aerial Thermal Imaging for Drone Pilots.

The self-paced course is available for $199.

The course primarily uses DJI products (ZenMuse XT Thermal Sensor and DJI Inspire) though of course there are plenty of other aircraft and sensor configurations. (The DJI Inspire and ZenMuse XT are widely used to capture accurate thermal data relatively easily and are representative of the capabilities of the majority of aerial thermography systems.)thermal imaging for uav pilots uav coach drone


Kimon Selfie Drone, CES, and the rise of bizarre press releases in my inbox

It’s CES 2017 this week, and that means my inbox is full of new drone products being announced!

A lot of it is good stuff — stay tuned for some really exciting news later this week. But a lot of it is downright ridiculous — or worse — pitches itself as something it is not.

Keyshare Technology today announced the launch of their Kimon “selfie” drone in the US market.  Its camera supports 4k/25fps video recording and at a price point of $399, seems reasonable for a consumer product. I look forward to reviewing it.

But here’s the sticking point: it calls itself “the first successful mass market selfie drone,” according to the press release screenshotted below.

Press release I just got for “first successful mass market drone.” Really?


As someone who gets lots of press releases about new product launches, my No. 1 pet peeve is this: drone marketers billing drones as the “first something or other” when they clearly are not.
Continue reading Kimon Selfie Drone, CES, and the rise of bizarre press releases in my inbox

Fire Safety with drones: How to use a drone to find and extinguish hot spots

When it comes to fires, smoldering logs and debris can create hot spots and reignite fires. Now, firefighters are using drones to find smoldering hot spots.

Last month, a fire in western North Carolina raged out of control, sending 7,100 acres of forest up in smoke. After firefighters successfully battled to control the wildfire, a team of drone pilots stepped in.

Drone pilots from Go Unmanned took a Matrice 600 with a Flir XT infrared camera and overflew the entire area, noticing many smoldering points remained in the burned out area. (The image below shows how an entire hillside looked like when it was lit with campfires in the “White-Hot” color schema, one of several color options offered by the Zenmuse XT).

The little white spots on the forested hillside in this photo are all areas of significant increased heat, most of them left over smoldering debris. For firefighters, it was surprising to see this many problem areas left over after the fire, pilots at Go Unmanned said.

The infrared camera on the drone gives a bird’s eye view of the hotspots, and through interactive guidance from the pilots, allows  firefighter on the ground to locate and uncover specific underground fires. Continue reading Fire Safety with drones: How to use a drone to find and extinguish hot spots

Amazon drones and the hype machine mistakenly fueling the drone industry

The following is a modified version of a piece originally written for Read the entire version here. on Wednesday announced that it had made its first drone delivery to a customer.

The  drone flight delivered a 4.7 pound package, taking 13 minutes to cover about 2 miles, flying from an Amazon warehouse over the English countryside to a landing pad placed in a customer’s yard. The story is all told in a neatly packaged video produced by Amazon that shows the warehouse and a man ordering the package, then walking out to his yard to receive it from a landing pad. Inside? A Fire TV and a bag of popcorn.

The news was covered as “a major step for drone delivery” as outlets touted how drone delivery “just became a reality.”

The reality is that Amazon’s drone delivery service currently services only two customers. Over the next several months it will expand to dozens who live near the company’s warehouse. Continue reading Amazon drones and the hype machine mistakenly fueling the drone industry

Watch a film shot entirely on a DJI drone

Think you can shoot a film entirely with a drone? That means not just an entire film of epic aerial shots. It means close-ups of the actors and indoor scenes too.

DJI proved they could do it, using nothing but the recently launched, $2,999 Inspire 2 drone.

DJI released “The Circle,” a 14-minute short film starring Ryan Phillippe and Noah Schnapp (Will Byers from Stranger Things) as an estranged father and son (respectively) in Depression-era America.

The Circle was shot entirely on the Inspire 2, using the drone’s X5R camera for every shot in the film. It was created by  Academy Award-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda, known for his work on “Life of Pi,” “Oblivion,” and “Tron.”screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-10-03-14-pm

“The advantage is obvious on smaller projects when you can’t afford cranes and all of the technicians that come along with it,” said Executive Producer Dana Brunetti.

Watch it here:

Continue reading Watch a film shot entirely on a DJI drone

The best drone films of 2016 — according to FRiFF

2016 saw plenty of developments in the drone industry — sense and avoid in consumer-level drones, better cameras for a lower price, and all around crazy low prices for drones.

Because of that, drones are easier than ever to access, which also means that the standards for drone photography and videography are higher. It’s not enough to send a drone in the air and get a cool shot just because it’s an aerial shot.

Now films need to have some type of story — and incredible aerial visuals.

This year’s Flying Robot international Drone Film Festival showcased exactly that. The 2nd annual FRiFFest in San Francisco, happened earlier this month at the Roxie Theater in the city’s Mission District. The festival received 180 submissions from 40 countries. Across 8 categories,  25 films were showcased at the festival.

I thought The Drone, which one best cinematic narrative, was absolutely brilliant and hilarious. Moon Line, which won in multiple categories, had me wondering the whole time, ‘how’d they do that?’

For some inspiration for your own drone videography, check out these winners (and for those of you who couldn’t watch the show in-person, you can watch all the winning videos below too):

Best in Show: Moon Line, Frédéric Rousseau [France]

Cinematic Narrative: The Drone, Jordan Rubin [USA]

Epic Landscape: Drone Poem: Always Take The Window Seat, Alexander Hotz [USA] Continue reading The best drone films of 2016 — according to FRiFF