Category Archives: News

4 new commercial drones (and drone products) debuting this fall

As drone conference season starts to pick up, it’s also time for a wave of new products to be announced.

While the drone industry can expect to get plenty of new commercial drones this year, many of this year’s announcements are not drones, as entrepreneurs and investors realize it’s difficult to compete with DJI, which has an estimated 70% market share.

But while the drone industry may be seeing fewer new drones being built, hardware is not dead. Instead, the hardware makers in the drone industry are turning their attention away from the drones instead and to different types of hardware. From different cameras to ways of improving GPS, commercial drone manufacturers are continuing to move away from building their own drones and instead looking for ways to improve DJI’s products.

Most of the drones mentioned below will make their public debut at Interdrone 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Here are 4 new products you need to know about:FlightWave Edge UAS

1. FlightWave Edge

Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup FlightWave Aerospace Systems today launched its FlightWave Edge drone, a long-range drone targeted at mapping, remote patrol and surveillance, and ecosystem monitoring customers. The drone, which has an open source payload development kit, is standout for its ability to transform from tri-copter to forward flight — meaning it has vertical takeoff and landing but is a hybrid drone, able to fly like a fixed wing drone as well.

FlightWave has a whopping two hours of continuous flight time. While it’s an electric drone, it leverages solar power for increased range and endurance. The drone also has a swappable, twist-lock payload pay to accommodate a variety of payloads.

The airframe itself, including detachable wings, touch screen LCD controller, batteries, front and rear propellers, and weatherproof case retails for $10,000. The system is then customized with your payloads. Payloads range in price from $2000 for a color mapping camera, to $7000 for a thermal plus color mapping array, to $12,000 for a gimbal stabilized color and thermal camera.

Bonus points: the drone claims to be moisture resistant and has been fully tested flying in the rain. The company anticipates making a full waterproof drone, capable of submerging up to 1 meter deep, by the end of 2018. Continue reading 4 new commercial drones (and drone products) debuting this fall

Yuneec steps up warranty program with unlimited manufacturer defect repairs.

Yuneec may not be the largest drone manufacturer in the world, but the maker of the Typhoon drone has long been known as the winning drone company when it comes to customer service.

And now, it’s raising the stakes with a new customer service program.

Yuneec this week announced its Yuneec Extended Service (and yes, the company is referring to it with the acronym “YES!”) plan.

The plan will cover unlimited manufacturer defect repairs.  The key there is “manufacturer defect” which means if you fly your drone into the lake, you’re probably not covered.

But, the warranty will cover other manufacturer defects, such as electronics problems or software issues, such as a flyaway.

All Yuneec customers get a standard one-year warranty, but the YES! extended warranty plan extends that out an additional year. Continue reading Yuneec steps up warranty program with unlimited manufacturer defect repairs.

DJI announces new leadership, appointing Roger Luo as president

DJI is changing up its leadership chain.

The world’s largest drone maker, DJI, this week announced that Roger Luo has been named president of DJI. Luo has been with the company since 2015, having previously served as the Vice President of Operations where he oversaw procurement, production and logistics.

Luo has previously worked at Apple, Foxconn and Siemens, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from National Taiwan University and a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering from Santa Clara University, California.

Luo’s role “will focus on developing DJI’s business internationally,” according to a news release from DJI.

“The move will also enable us to gain a deeper understanding of our growing customer base and build stronger relationships with our dealers and partners,” said DJI founder and CEO Frank Wang in a prepared statement.

Wang will continue as CEO, where he will oversee DJI’s product development, according to the news release.

Wang has historically been more hands-on in developing DJI’s products, while steering clear of the more public-facing, business-focused roles that some CEOs take on. In the past, Wang has declined interviews with journalists, citing a preference for spending time working on products. It’s likely that the move will allow Wang to continue to focus more on engineering while allowing someone else to take more of a front-facing role in the company.

DJI now has more than 11,000 staff members and offices in 17 cities. The company has a predicted 70% market share.

The company rose to popularity with its iconic Phantom drone. In 2016, the company found a hit with its more portable Mavic drone, and this year the company launched a new, smaller and lower cost drone, the Spark.

Drone accelerator Genius NY looking to invest in drone startups

Genius NY, a drone-focused business accelerator with nearly $3 million to invest, is looking for its second-round of startups to fund.

The accelerator is accepting applications between now and Oct. 1, and it will choose six startups to invest in.

This year, Genius NY is especially focused on investing in women-owned drone startups.

“Last year, out of the 250 applications, only two were women-owned businesses,” said Director of Genius NY Jon Parry. “We felt like it wasn’t a problem in the selection process — it was in the application process. We would love to have diversity on our teams.”

Women have historically been absent from executive teams at the major drone companies — and that could be a problem. Consumers have complained that FPV goggles are too big and slide off their heads — likely because smaller people haven’t been involved in the design process. Many drone companies have assumed women wouldn’t be interested in their products and ignored them in their marketing efforts, leading to a major loss in potential sales.

Kara Alheim, GENIUS NY Content and Marketing Manager flies a drone with GENIUS NY
finalist SkyOp, a drone training company who won $250,000 from the program. Applications for GENIUS NY 2.0 are open until October 1, 2017. Courtesy Genius NY

Women account for $4.3 trillion of total U.S. consumer spending of $5.9 trillion, according to The Atlantic, making women the largest single economic force not just in the United States, but in the world.

And Genius NY hopes their investments will pay off.

The accelerator is looking to invest in either hardware or software startups, but Parry predicts that software is the future. Continue reading Drone accelerator Genius NY looking to invest in drone startups

Chime is next real estate company to make a bet on drones

The next time you buy or sell a home, a drone might be involved.

The market for drones in real estate is projected to hit $68 million in the U.S. and $265 million globally, according to a 2016 report from Goldman Sachs.

And today, real estate operating system developer Chime announced its leap into the drone world.

The real estate startup announced its exclusive U.S. real estate distribution rights with Simtoo, the creator of the Dragonfly and Moment drones. Simtoo’s Moment drone has covered blades, designed to fly indoors, and also has facial recognition technology.

With Chime, a new piece of software is designed to enable agents to give virtual tours of homes, live streaming the homes to a Facebook page or listing-specific site for interested buyers.

The idea is that the drones would prevent buyers from feeling pressure to attend open houses, and allow sellers the chance to offer just “drone open houses” so strangers don’t have to enter their homes.

Drones have been used for years in exterior real estate photography, and they’re increasingly being used in interiors too. DJI’s newest drone, the Spark, performs just as well indoors as outdoors, appealing to agents looking to fly drones to give clients tours. The DJI Spark also allows for live streaming to Facebook.

Back in 2015, real estate agent Douglas Trudeau became the first real estate agent to receive legal clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to be able to fly drones commercially, receiving a 333 exemption to fly a Phantom 2 Vision + quadcopter.

And a myriad of companies like LuxQue and Above Summit promote their drones as a form of real estate marketing.

The National Association of Realtors has even set up a resource page to help realtors learn about the government’s drone regulations.

For the record, all pilots need to get a Part 107 license to use drones for commercial purposes. For more information on the Part 107 license and testing process, click here.

EAA 2017: Here is all the drone mania you missed

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh just wrapped up — and there was more for dronies to see than ever before — including a peek at Amazon Drones.

EAA AirVenture is the world’s largest air show, and it focuses on all things aviation, from traditional planes to homebuilt planes to skydiving.  590,000 people attended EAA this year a five percent increase over 2016. The airshow saw 17,223 aircraft operations in the day day period from July 21-30 for an average of 123 takeoffs or landings per hour.

Related read: Check out my EAA Airventure live tour from 2016

Amazon Prime Air drones took the center stage at the event.

And it turns out, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was even at the event — but not particularly for drones. Bezos was in Oshkosh to talk about Blue Origin, his other company that is working on space travel.

Human-carrying drones made their EAA debut this year. Ohio-based company Workhorse displayed its Surefly manned drone — a two passenger octocopter that is expected to fly at about 70 miles per hour. The drone wasn’t flying though; the drone is still in development but is expected to be flying by 2019 at a cost of $200,000 per drone.

In the realm of drones, EAA visitors were treated to a glimpse of  Google CEO Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk is the startup backed by Page that is working to create a form of personal transport that travels in the air. Its vehicle, called the Flyer, is a sort of hoverbike with drone-style propellers that can takeoff and land vertically, like most drones.

Most of the drone action occurred in the main drone exhibit, which included demos of drones such as the DJI Mavic Pro and an obstacle speed course.

Of course, my friends from Women and Drones were in attendance this year too — with some great swag!

Were you at EAA? Let me know your favorite part in the comments below!

DJI Spark gets new photo and video features with firmware update

Got a DJI Spark? DJI today launched a new firmware update to add new ways you can take photos and videos.

The new firmware update includes a new gesture to start and stop video recording, an enhanced “QuickShot” video feature and a mode for 180-degree photo shooting.

Related read: DJI Spark Review: An amazing, low-cost drone (90% of the time)

The new gesture to start and stop video recording involves an arm movement that is performed like this: Continue reading DJI Spark gets new photo and video features with firmware update

Department of Defense is using SkySafe to crack down on rogue drones

As the drone industry takes off, there is another industry taking off with it — the anti-drone industry.

San Diego-based startup SkySafe, which creates technology to disable drones from flying where Skydio’s customers don’t want them to, announced that it won a $1.5 million contract with the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide mobile counter-drone systems to Naval Special Warfare units. The company will be rolling out demos and tests over the next year and hopes to have its systems in place with the DoD by 2018.

SkySafe is able to detect and selectively control individual drones, largely via radio waves. Its systems are not available to the general public, but the company works with “qualified public safety customers.”

Courtesy SkySafe

Drones that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars have been increasingly causing problems at major events. They have crashed into cyclists during races, and in 2015, a DJI Phantom drone crashed near the White House. Just last month, a drone crashed during a Padres game at Petco Park in San Diego, Calif. And in an event much like Thursday’s anticipated Warriors parade,  a drone crashed into a woman, knocking her unconscious during Seattle’s 2015 Pride Parade. The drone operator was found guilty of reckless endangerment.

Anti-drone companies like SkySafe have grown in the past few years.  DroneShield, for instance, sells a Dronegun, which is a jammer that can disrupt a drone’s remote control, forcing it to land or return to its starting point. In some European countries there are companies training eagles to take down drones midair. And San Francisco-based startup Dedrone has developed software that can detect drones in the vicinity before they even take off, and its software is already being used in a few prisons and for events, including during the 2016 presidential debate at Hofstra University and at the Golden State Warriors parade  in Oakland, Calif.

Courtesy SkySafe

Dedrone uses sensors, including RF/WiFi scanners, microphones and cameras to collect data and determine whether or not a drone is in a certain area, as well as analyze its flight path and the type of drone.

Skysafe also announced today announced that it closed $11.5 million in Series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

In 2016, the startup raised $3 million in seed funding in a round, also led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Founder Collective, SV Angel, and BoxGroup.

Andreessen Horowitz has invested in a number of drone companies including Airware, drone delivery companies Zipline and Matternet and drone auto-pilot startup Skydio.