Category Archives: News

Disney may use drones in theme park entertainment

The following piece was originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the full story here.

Drones may be going to Disneyland.

Though they may sound like they could exist only in Tomorrowland, Disney is working on ways to use drones in its entertainment productions.disneyland drone patent

Disney applied for three UAV-related patents, indicating that drones could hold marionette or projection screens for nighttime entertainment.

“The inventors recognized that presently there are no mechanisms for creating very large aerial displays such as a display that is reusable/repeatable, dynamic, and interactive,” the patent states.

To address that need, Disney’s R&D department is working to create a multi-drone aerial display system and a ground control station that could choreograph repeatable movements.

The three applications are:

With the drones, larger-than-life puppets could be mounted with rods to fly through the air above Disneyland.

jack skellington drone patent drawing

“This is a significant improvement over prior flying characters, which typically were provided in the form of parade or other blimps/balloons filled with hot air or other gases and that had little and/or awkward articulation of any movable parts,” according to the patent.

The patent indicates that drones could even potentially replace fireworks, which can be dangerous and inconsistent. Instead, the patent calls for an aerial display system based on the floating pixel, or “flixel.” Each drone would carry a lighting assembly that could display images or colors, making use of the sky as a screen.

Read the rest of the story on MarketWatch.com.

DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of

This story was originally written for Air-Vid.com. Read the entire story here.

Aerial photographer Shane Latham can tell you that. He’s the Founder of Octofilms, he’s one of 10 DJI-sponsored pilots (and the only one in the U.S.), and he’s the only pilot in the U.S. to own a DJI S900.

Latham  already has a DJI S800 EVO, S1000 and has now added the S900 to his toolkit.

“The S900 the size of the S800 but with collapsible arms,” Latham is quick to point out.

The 3.3 kg hexacopter has foldable arms and is one of the lightest and easily to transport of the expert-level drones.

“The s900 is the new generation,” said DJI’s Marketing Manager Willis Chung.

Much of the weight reduction is in the arms and landing gear, made of carbon fiber.

“You can tell the weight loss right when you pick it up,” Latham said.

Latham’s favorite aspect of the S900? The removable top.

“It’s genius,” Latham said. “The top has a star pattern plate where you remove just 5-6 without having to take apart the frame.”

The S900 features an upper center board that can be removed, making an easy way to setup the power distribution system.

“Now you can easily remove the top, get down there, make any changes you need to do then put the top back on and you’re ready to go,” Latham said. “You can see and organize all your wires.”

Some other highlights of the S900:

  • Sparkproof plug to prevent short circuits
  • 18 minute flight time
  • 8.2 kg takeoff weight
  • Zenmuse gimbal compatible

“It’s like they listened to a lot of things users were asking for,” Latham said. Continue reading DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of

3 drones that happened because of Kickstarter

Sure, a potato salad has generated $30,000 in pledges on Kickstarter. But drones have landed on Kickstarter too, and many have been quite successful. Here are 4 drones that exist because of Kickstarter:

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The Pocket Dronethis multicopter is powerful enough to carry a GoPro and folds up smaller than a 7 -inch tablet. The 1-pound drone works out of the box and offers 20 minutes of flight-time. This drone looks like an awesome tool to fit inside a purse or backpack to have for on the fly aerial photography. According to its website, the drone will ship late summer 2014. If you missed your chance to pledge in the Kickstarter, the drone now sells online for $549 + shipping.

Number of Backers: 1,946

Goal: $35,000

Amount pledged: $929,212

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AirDogthis small, foldable quadcopter holds a GoPro and markets itself as “the world’s first auto-follow drone for GoPro camera” — sort of like a dog. There’s also an AirLeash, a small waterproof computerized tracker that sends signals to the AirDog, indicating exact movement trajectory. An alarm on the AirLeash indicates low battery and the drone automatically lands and takes-off.

The pictures on the drone show slightly different colors…I’m hoping this means an interchangeable body and arms…rainbow drones, anyone?

Number of Backers: 771

Goal: $200,000

Amount pledged: $704,310 Continue reading 3 drones that happened because of Kickstarter

Are drones illegal in your state? This map can tell you.

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

As the federal government decides how to regulate drones in the U.S., states are moving on their own. Check out the status of drone legislation in your state here.

There is currently no federal regulation of unmanned aircraft, but Congress passed a law two years ago ordering the FAA to issue national rules legalizing drones for commercial purposes by September 2015.

In 2011, the FAA penalized drone videographer Rapheal Pirker $10,000 for using a drone. Pirker challenged the fine, and a federal administrative-law judge overturned the penalty, saying there was no law banning the commercial use of small drones.

The FAA on Monday released its interpretation of rules for model aircraft after recent incidents involving reckless use of drones. The FAA states that hobby or recreational flying doesn’t require FAA approval, but recommends following their safety guidelines, which encourage contacting the airport operator when flying within 5 miles of an airport, not flying near manned aircraft or beyond the operator’s line of sight. It also specifies model aircraft as weighing fewer than 55 lbs.

Read the rest of the story at its original location on MarketWatch.com.

Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

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Photo courtesy Skysense

Andrea Puiatti knows a problem when he sees one. And it only took him 6 months to come up with a solution that could further disrupt an industry you thought couldn’t get any more revolutionary.

Puiatti is the CEO of Skysense, a company that creates portable charging pads that automatically charge your drone, no humans to plug it in required.

Here’s how it works: Your drone flies miles away from you. The battery has probably lasted 20 minutes — 30 minutes on a good day. Your drone autonomously lands — but not just anywhere — on a portable landing pad no more than the size of a bath mat, which you’ve set up ahead of time. Wires connected to the drone touch the pad, and through direct contact, the batteries on the drone immediately start charging. Once charged, the drone takes off and resumes the mission you’ve programmed for it.

“This solves two problems,” Puiatti said. “The first, it enables you to manage the operation remotely. Second, you can have a drone that takes off at any time without human intervention to change the battery, thus enabling fully autonomous missions.”

Andrea says the charging is just as efficient as if you were to plug the battery charger in the socket wall.

The product would enable a drone to have full automation, particularly useful in cases such as inspection, security and agriculture, and it has a retail price between $1000-1500 dollars. Continue reading Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

Document from film company shows what exemptions they want the FAA to make for them

The FAA announced last week that seven aerial photo and video production companies had asked for exemptions to its commercial drone ban.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t already been using drones — reports state that drones have aided in the filming of blockbusters including Skyfall, The Hunger Games and even The Smurfs 2. And even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Gifford Hooper and Philip George of Hovercam an Oscar for the continuing development of the Helicam miniature helicopter camera system, a high-speed, extremely maneuverable, turbine-engine, radio-controlled miniature helicopter that supports professional film and digital cinema cameras.

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This picture shows a turbine-powered helicopter flying over a highly populated area to film a movie. A drone could replace this helicopter.

“Helicam provides a wide range of stabilized, remotely operated pan, tilt and roll capabilities, achieving shots impossible for full-size helicopters,” the award states.

But 7 companies, Aerial MOB, Asraeus, Flying-Cam, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision, SnapRoll Media and Vortex, want to work with the FAA by asking for exemptions to any FAA standards for flying drones.

DroneGirl has obtained a copy of a 14-page letter sent to the FAA by SnapRoll Media, one of the film companies that wants the FAA to make an exemption to their regulations so they can use drones to shoot films.

“Given the small size of the sUASs involved and restricted sterile environment within which they will operate, the applicant falls squarely within that zone of safety in which Congress envisioned that the FAA must, by exemption, allow commercial operations of UASs to commence immediately,” the document states. “Also due to the size of the UASs and the restricted areas in which the relevant sUASs will operate, approval of the application presents no national security issue.”

The letter outlines requirements, and immediately follows them with reasons why an exemption is needed. If the letter (posted here) is tl;dr for you, here are some key points:

 

Continue reading Document from film company shows what exemptions they want the FAA to make for them

Air-Vid takes off with worldwide directory of drone and UAV pilots

Looking for a drone pilot to shoot aerial video for a research project, film or even your wedding?

Air-Vid, an aerial pilot directory, does just that. And now, they have 500 pilots from 44 different companies.

It’s beneficial for pilots, who can get business and profit from flying drones. But it’s also beneficial for people who need a pilot to capture video for them.

“It’s an easy process to find a videographer,” said Air-Vid Chief Marketing Officer George Gooderham. “It’s like a matchmaker service.”

How it works:

  1. Pilots register for Air-Vid, including uploading contact information, location, photos, demo reels
  2. Anyone who needs a UAV pilot can search the directory
  3. They can view their contact information and connect with them off the site
  4. All transactions are done outside the site

Pilots in the Air-Vid community range from hobbyists to professionals who have worked on Hollywood films — among them are Drone Dudes, whose clients include Nike and GoPro. Customers can search pilots based on the skill level they’re looking for, whether they’re looking for someone to fly over an event, rescue mission, news story or even a wedding.

“Air-Vid is a one stop shop to find and compare companies from all over the world,” said Eric Maloney, Head of Production at Drone Dudes. “It will allow clients to quickly decipher who the real talented high-end guys are and who is just getting started.”

Air-Vid pilots are capable of doing flights including:

  • search and rescue
  • cinematography
  • mapping
  • roof inspections
  • 3D Imaging
  • asset management

Gooderham, an accomplished aerial photographer, had the idea to crowd-source a UAV pilot when his daughter went on a school trip to Italy.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if I could watch their outdoor concert in Rome from my home in Toronto?” he said.

Meanwhile Egan, a licensed pilot, who separately works for a major commercial real estate firm, wanted a way to show off multi-million dollar parcels of land in order to differentiate his marketing.

“Typically there’s always a photo with no context looking out over a green field, but there’s no proximity to retail, roads or traffic,” Egan said. “An aerial image would give context to that property.”

Over coffee one day, they realized why isn’t there an easy way to find a UAV pilot online?

Air-Vid does just that.

Continue reading Air-Vid takes off with worldwide directory of drone and UAV pilots

First Take: What really happened with the Florida “near-miss” drone accident

The Federal Aviation Administration this week spoke at a conference of a drone that nearly collided with a US Airways airplane in Tallahassee, Fla.

“He (the US Airways pilot) reported what appeared to be a small, remotely piloted aircraft at approximately 2,300 feet in the air,” the FAA’s Jim Williams said during the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition in San Francisco.

The incident reportedly happened March 22 near Tallahassee Regional Airport.

The news is swiftly making its rounds on major news outlets including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. It’s even the top trending story on Facebook.

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A CNN anchor called it “a near nightmare.” The FAA’s UAS head Jim Williams referred to this type of accident as “perilous.”

But where’s the rest of the story? The data to back it up? The facts? Or just something that Williams said.

Anytime there is a near miss, which could include a collision with another airplane or that vehicle flying too close to ground obstacles, both the pilot and air traffic controller traditionally files a voluntary near miss report through the Aviation Safety Reporting System database, which has been managed by NASA since 1988.

“It’s one of the best safety databases in the entire world in terms of accuracy of data and reporting,” pilot Davis Hunt said.

The thing is, this drone collision report is nowhere to be found in the ASRS database, something drone lawyer Brendan Schulman noted on his Twitter account.

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Continue reading First Take: What really happened with the Florida “near-miss” drone accident