Category Archives: News

A DJI Phantom crashed into a bike race — causing the cyclist to fly over the handles

This is an excerpt from a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire piece here.

Just when you thought getting doored was the most traumatizing thing that could happen to you as a cyclist, now there are vehicles in the sky you need to watch out for.

A DJI Phantom drone flying over cyclists on May 6 during the Golden State Race Series in Rancho Cordova, Calif. hit a tree, crashing into a rider’s front wheel. The cyclist was able to bike a bit further down the road, until the drone locked up the front wheel, causing the biker to fly over the handle bars.

Another biker, Kaito Clarke, who was using a Garmin Virb camera to video his race, captured the whole drone collision on camera, which he then posted to YouTube. Watch the drone collision here, which starts around the 30-second mark and replays again in slow motion:

The cyclist suffered a gravel rash and the drone pilot, who immediately came forward to admit it was his device, offered to purchase a new bike for the injured cyclist.

This isn’t the first crash from a drone made by DJI, which has what analysts say is a 70% market share of the drone market. In 2015, a Phantom drone belonging to a government employee crashed near the White House. DJI attempted to mitigate that and future situations by putting a virtual fence on its drones, building software that prevents them from flying within a 15.5-mile radius of downtown Washington, D.C.

As drones become more commonplace, drone crashes like this could happen a lot more frequently. People bought 2.4 million hobbyist drones in the U.S. in 2016, more than double the 1.1 million sold in 2015, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

The Federal Aviation Administration created new rules in 2016 that make it illegal for commercial drone operators in the U.S. to fly drones over people not directly participating in the operation. Only two companies have waivers exempting them from those rules — FLIR, which makes thermal cameras used on drones, and CNN, which tethers its drones to the ground for safety.

The FAA’s rules around hobby drone operators — meaning people flying drones not for profit — are significantly less strict. Hobby drone pilots are supposed to follow safety guidelines developed by groups such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which say you should not intentionally fly over people. But those are guidelines, not rules, meaning that the drone pilot flying over this race may not have broken any rules if they weren’t flying for commercial purposes.

Parrot Professional joins 3D Robotics in repackaging consumer drones as enterprise solutions

Drone manufacturer Parrot on Monday announced Parrot Professional — Parrot’s consumer drones (the Disco and the Bebop) repackaged as commercial enterprise products through add-ons like Pix4D and thermal cameras.

Parrot’s new products include the $4,499 Parrot Disco-Pro AG — Parrot’s $899 Disco drone packaged with Pix4D and access to the Airinov online mapping platform and the $1,100 Parrot Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling — the $595 Bebop 2 quadcopter with Pix4D capture and Pix4D model software.

The drones target enterprise use cases; the Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal could enable inspection and thermal detection companies, roofers, plumbers, building workers, and also firefighters, to get thermal and radiometry information. Parrot-Pro 3D Modeling could target real-estate agents and architects who want to create promotional videos or interactive 3D models.

parrot professional disco ag airinov pix4d
Parrot’s Disco-Pro Ag

Amid a long line of consumer drone companies struggling to stay afloat, Parrot is the latest drone company to repackage what are relatively inexpensive consumer drones as professional products. (Parrot in January cut its drone team of 840 employees by 290 people — about one-third. 150 positions would be cut from its headquarters in France, along with other positions around the world, according to its most recent earnings report.) Continue reading Parrot Professional joins 3D Robotics in repackaging consumer drones as enterprise solutions

Drones are making cargo deliveries in the Amazon rainforest

Drones still have a number of hoops to fly through before drone delivery becomes widespread in the U.S.

But in Peru’s Amazon rainforest, drones are making cargo deliveries  of anti-venom medication to remote villages.

WeRobotics, a group that carries out robotic-related social good projects around the world, is testing drone delivery of 2 pound blood samples and anti-venom medication inside of a refrigerated cold pack between the town of Contamana to the more remote village of Pampa Hermosa about 40 kilometers away. It’s a journey that typically lasts 6 hours via canoe — done via drone in 35 minutes. The Contamana region sees an average of 45 snakebites per month, meaning medication on-hand is imperative.

WeRobotics used an E384 fixed wing drone that costs $2,799– a drone that is hand-launched and able to fly autonomously. It’s not a fancy, expensive drone designed to make delivers. (In fact, they tried making deliveries with a $40,000 drone that not only turned out to be quite cumbersome, but didn’t even work).

For now the WeRobotics drone flights are just tests and are not occurring regularly, but that’s not to say they couldn’t. Field tests for a Zika reduction project are scheduled for late 2017, and WeRobotics is currently working to carry out longer distance test flights.amazon rainforest werobotics drone delivery

While the taco by drone delivery industry hasn’t really taken off, increasingly more drones are being used to deliver medical supplies to countries with poor infrastructure and in rural areas.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup Matternet has been running drone deliveries of medical supplies and specimens in countries around the world, including Switzerland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, since it was founded in 2011. The UPS Foundation announced in May 2016 that it was partnering with drone startup Zipline and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to deliver blood for transfusions by drone throughout Rwanda.

The next thing in drone delivery: IBM patents a relay race of drones

One of the biggest challenges to drone delivery is the fact that most drones are limited in how far they can fly. One of IBM’s latest patents looks to take a stab at ameliorating that with a plan that essentially looks like a relay race for drones.

IBM’s patent enables drones to pass off packages to each other mid-flight. The way it would work is each drone would have extendable arms that can connect mid-flight to transfer a package between the other.  A communication system between the two drones would enable them to know where the other drone was.

It’s feasible that if the system took off, people wouldn’t need drone landing pads on their homes or businesses for delivery drones to drop off goods. Instead, they might be able to send their own drone to retrieve the package from the delivery drone.ibm drone patent

Hypothetically, IBM’s plans could solve existing problems with delivery drones including limited flight range, theft of unattended packages once delivered, and a lack of delivery network optimization. The patent was filed on Jan. 4, 2016. Continue reading The next thing in drone delivery: IBM patents a relay race of drones

DJI’s partnership with Hasselblad leads to an 100-megapixel Frankendrone

The love child between DJI, the world’s largest drone maker and beloved professional photography brand Hasselblad is an 100-megapixel Frankendrone.

DJI announced at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada this week what is the first 100-megapixel integrated drone imaging platform.

The new product isn’t exactly a new product — it’s a mashup of existing products — the DJI M600 Pro drone, the Ronin-MX gimbal and the Hasselblad H6D-100c camera.

The Hasselblad camera has a massive 53.4 mm x 40.0 mm sensor. The drone is targeted at landscape and fine-art photographers, and surveyors or map-makers requiring robust data platforms.

The drone will be released in the third quarter of 2017, and the price has not yet been announced. But considering the M600 Pro currently retails for around $4,999, the Ronin MX retails for $1,599 and the  Hasselblad H6D-100c costs more than $30,000, this probably won’t be cheap. Continue reading DJI’s partnership with Hasselblad leads to an 100-megapixel Frankendrone

DJI Goggles bring FPV first person view to its Mavic, Phantom and Inspire drones

DJI is on a roll announcing new drone-related products this week around NAB 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  There’s the new advanced controller, the Ronin 2, Crystal Sky, and a new premium customer service plan called DJI Circle.

And on Monday, it announced its own version of FPV goggles, which it calls DJI Goggles. The FPV goggles give pilots a first person view, completely covering their eyes to give them the same viewpoint they might get if they were sitting in the cockpit of the drone. The goggles are designed so that the visor can be flipped up with one motion and pilots can see their drone with their own eyes.dji goggles

Before the arrival of DJI Goggles, users could hypothetically sync up their own third party FPV goggles. But with DJI Goggles, DJI is able to integrate features including allowing users to use their own head movements to control both aircraft yaw and camera tilt. DJI Goggles can also be programmed to control the gimbal exclusively, while the aircraft operator maintains control of the aircraft with the master controller.

DJI Goggles Specs

The DJI Goggles use a beam splitter to display an image in front of each eye, and each screen has HD 1920×1080 resolution. The video is received directly from the drone rather than through the controller, which is supposed to minimize lag. When flying with the Mavic Pro, DJI Goggles offers both 720p at 60 fps and close range 1080p at 30 fps viewing with latency as low as 110ms. Continue reading DJI Goggles bring FPV first person view to its Mavic, Phantom and Inspire drones

DJI Circle offers premium drone customer support — at a premium price

For professional customers with a pretty massive wallet, DJI this week announced its new DJI Circle program, a premium customer support program.

And the price tag to buy into the program? It starts at $4,699 for a 12-month period.

The DJI Circle program will offer members broad coverage over a twelve-month period for up to five DJI products, including the Inspire, M600, Mavic Pro and Phantom drone series, and the Ronin and Osmo series of handheld stabilizers.

That’s not to say the nearly $5,000 for 12-months fee is a bad deal. The program includes a personal DJI concierge who can help manage a battery rental service and repairs; coverage includes accidental damage to DJI products, up to $15,000 annually. The concierge will send along a temporary replacement device to use until the repair is complete.  Continue reading DJI Circle offers premium drone customer support — at a premium price

NAB 2017: 5 major drone announcements you need to know about

The NAB 2017 Show kicks off on Monday in Las Vegas, Nevada, and there are some pretty big drone announcements coming out of it.

Drones are flying at there own “Aerial Robotics and Drone Pavilion” this year. In addition to being able to attend a number of sessions including aerial cinematography techniques, live broadcasting and Part 107 certification, attendees will get to see new product launches.

Here are 5 new drone product launches happening at NAB 2017 that you need to know about:

dji ronin 2
DJI’s Ronin 2
    1. DJI’s Ronin 2: DJI is mostly known for making drones, but it is improving that smooth silky look for ground images too. DJI on Sunday announced the Ronin 2, a three-axis camera stabilizer based on the drone maker’s gimbal technology. The Ronin 2 has an enlarged camera cage and 50mm extendable arms which can support DSRLs as well as full cinematic cameras and lenses up to 30 pounds.  The drone has a detachable grip to allow for a range of camera mounts, from the basic handheld and jib configurations to Ready Rig, plus cable cams, vehicles and drones. The Ronin 2 allows for dual hot-swappable batteries, providing 2.5 hours of runtime. A new Panorama mode on Ronin 2 can create still image panoramas that account for the camera sensor type and lens focal length as well as the user-defined overlap rate, while the new Timelapse mode can program multiple movements and camera actions at different points along a route, and view progress in real time. Ronin 2 will be available in the second quarter of 2017, and pricing will be announced prior to availability. The current version of Ronin is currently $1,599.

      PolarPro Katana Mavic Tray NAB 2017
      PolarPro’s Katana Mavic Tray
    2. PolarPro’s Katana Mavic Tray:   The Mavic Pro has already taken the drone world by storm, and PolarPro, which makes a number of drone accessories, including camera filters and backpacks, announced at NAB the new Katana Mavic Tray. The tray utilizes the Mavic’s gimbal to turn the drone into a hand-held solution for smooth, cinematic shots. It’s essentially an integrated smartphone mount, in which users rely on the drone’s companion app for framing and camera controls. The PolarPro Katana Mavic Tray is $49.99. The first 100 pre-orders have already sold and will ship on May 1.dji cendence
    3. DJI’s Cendence Remote Controller: DJI’s new Cendence remote controller is an advanced, multi-platform controller. The drone gives pilotsinstant access to functions like ISO, sharpness, shutter speed, focus and more, without navigating the touch menu settings on their mobile device. Two dials adjust the pitch and yaw of the gimbal at the same time. Built-in SDI and HDMI video transmission ports allow for live HD broadcast and streaming applications. The controller, which has battery life of up to 4 hours, mounts smartphones, tablets and DJI’s high-brightness CrystalSky monitors, and also features a smaller secondary screen to display critical telemetry data. Cendence will be available later this year for $999.

Continue reading NAB 2017: 5 major drone announcements you need to know about