Category Archives: News

Want to write for Drone Girl? We want your submissions!

Surely you have feelings about drones, and we want you to share them here!

Drone Girl is now accepting article submissions so you can get your voice heard! Maybe you’ve talked your families’ ears off about the wondrous things a drone can do, or perhaps you’ve found some awesome drone video that must be shared.

Here's a selfie of Drone Girl! If you join our team, we'll share your drone selfies too!
Here’s a selfie of Drone Girl! If you join our team, we’ll share your drone selfies too!

Maybe you just want to post once, or maybe you’d like to post once a week. Either way, I want more voices on Drone Girl (you don’t have to own a drone, and you don’t have to be a girl…you just have to write riveting content about drones)! Send me a message with the subject line DG Reader Submission and let’s chat about posting it here!

Here are some ideas of posts I would love to see:

  • Product Reviews
  • Top Photos
  • Flying Tips
  • How-To’s
  • Drone News Commentary

They can be serious or silly, filled with GIFs or packed with powerful prose. Either way, if you are interested in joining the Drone Girl team, then I’m interested in hearing from you!

11 Disney movies where happy endings would have changed with a drone

11. Magic carpet gets laid off as happy couple opts to save money and explore the whole new world with a drone

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10. Rapunzel spends rest of life in her tower, curiosity for floating lanterns quelled by “follow-me” drone

rapunzel

9. Wendy loses will to fly to Neverland, after Mr. Darling gives her a toy drone instead as a “grown-up” present

peter pan Continue reading 11 Disney movies where happy endings would have changed with a drone

FAA announces public research and test sites of drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today the six public entities that will serve as research and test sites for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

“These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years,” an FAA news release stated.

The sites are:

  • University of Alaska. The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation. Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.
  • State of Nevada. Nevada’s project objectives concentrate on UAS standards and operations as well as operator standards and certification requirements. The applicant’s research will also include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. Nevada’s selection contributes to geographic and climatic diversity.
  • New York’s Griffiss International Airport.Griffiss International plans to work on developing test and evaluation as well as verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. The applicant also plans to focus its research on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aid in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.
  • North Dakota Department of Commerce. North Dakota plans to develop UAS airworthiness essential data and validate high reliability link technology. This applicant will also conduct human factors research. North Dakota’s application was the only one to offer a test range in the Temperate (continental) climate zone and included a variety of different airspace which will benefit multiple users.
  • Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).Virginia Tech plans to conduct UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas. This proposal includes test site range locations in both Virginia and New Jersey.

This information follows the Nov. 7 announcement of the UAS Roadmap, which focuses on the regulations, policies and procedures necessary to UAS’ into FAA-regulated airspace.

Related posts:

Al Jazeera explores drone journalism, featuring Drone Girl herself

ajAl Jazeera’s Listening Post feature this week takes a look at drones and how they are becoming tools of the journalistic trade.

“More and more news stories, particularly those on television, now include video shot by drones,” the latest update on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post page states. “Listening Post’s Will Yong reports on the potential – and some of the pitfalls – of the media’s unmanned eyes in the skies.”

You can listen to me, Sally (aka Drone Girl), talk drone journalism alongside our friend Matthew Schroyer, founder of DroneJournalism.org on the latest Listening Post episode here.

In other drone journalism news, the BBC has an entire news story taught by drone. Their bird’s eye view of a protest rally in Thailand is told via drone, including a stand-up.

Happy flying!

How hacker drones could turn your personal drone into its personal zombie

It seems as though spying or crashing is no longer what dronies should be cautious of.

Hacker Samy Kamkar released hardware and software specifications that hobbyists can use to turn their drone into a drone that seeks out other drones in flight, hacks them and turns them into an army of unmanned vehicles, all under control of the hacker.

Shooting Amazon drones down with a shotgun to steal your packages? So last year.

Taking control of the Amazon drone to get it to bring the package to your house and not the intended recipient? That’s this year. Like, right now.

“Using a Parrot AR.Drone 2, a Raspberry Pi, a USB battery, an Alfa AWUS036H wireless transmitter, aircrack-ng, node-ar-drone, node.js, and my SkyJack software, I developed a drone that flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any other drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates with the target drone pretending to be its owner, then feeds commands to it and all other possessed zombie drones at my will,” Kamkar wrote on his site.

It’s a system he calls Skyjack. Cute name. Not so cute idea (if used for evil). Continue reading How hacker drones could turn your personal drone into its personal zombie

Amazon news roundup by the numbers, in the media

Amazon drones could be flying through the sky delivering your purchases in fewer than 30 minutes. And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says they will — in the next few years.

“One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” the company said. Drones are not quite ‘normal’ yet, but they aren’t completely out of the realm of possibilities. Drones are already being used to gather aerial images of farmland to help farmers increase efficiency, to spot poachers in Africa or to deliver medicine to hard-to-reach places in the world, things companies like Airware and Matternet already do.

“I know this looks like science fiction, it’s not,” said Bezos.

The drone delivery is contingent upon FAA regulation of UAVs, which is still yet to be determined, but is expected to happen in 2015.

“This is early, this is still years away,” Bezos said.

  • Amazon currently has 96 massive warehouses, or “fulfillment centers”
  • 86% of Amazon’s packages are less than 5 pounds
  • More than 300 packages are ordered a second on Amazon during Cyber Monday

Tons of media outlets are out there reporting on Amazon’s huge announcement — delivering packages via drone. Here’s a roundup of some stories out there:

Meet aerial photographer (and pilot!) Davis Hunt

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Photo courtesy of Davis Hunt

Drone Girl likes to periodically profile awesome drone users. Meet Davis Hunt! He’s a pilot, but he also flies drones! He’s also the owner of ViewPoint Aviation in Boston, Massachusetts.

Drone Girl: What’s your background, and how did you get into drones?

Davis Hunt: I’ve been an aviation enthusiast since I was a kid. I got my Private Pilot certificate when I was 17, Instrument rating at 19, Commercial rating at 20, and put myself through undergrad working as a CFI. I love flying and the aviation community. My professional background is in commercial aviation. Given the cost structure of flying, with fuel prices north of $5 a gallon, I wanted to explore platforms that would allow for more competitive, affordable structure and really get creative with it. . I had seen several videos posted using UAV’s, specifically a professional-grade octo-copter. I was captivated by the idea, but wasn’t crazy about investing $15,000 – $20,000. Finally, I heard about the DJI Phantom. I was so impressed by the build quality and technology, I bought two. Currently, they don’t have names yet, but I think everything that flies should be named. Have to work on that….

DCIM100GOPRO
Photo courtesy of Davis Hunt

DG: You’re a pilot; does that change the way you approach flying drones? Or is flying a drone different than piloting a plane?

DH: My drone flying practices are definitely heavily influenced by flying aircraft. Aviation is filled with many sayings and wisdom; one of those being “flying isn’t inherently dangerous, it’s just unforgiving”. While flying a drone doesn’t have the same immediate safety risks, it does have other risks. It’s imperative to establish safe operating principles and procedures. Extreme caution must be exercised, especially when operating near crowds. At the end of the day, safe habits and safe operation will better allow for the incorporation of drones into useful roles, while not filling the headlines with stories of accidents or incidents that make the public fearful.

DCIM100GOPRO
Photo courtesy of Davis Hunt

DG: What is the most interesting thing you’ve photographed with a drone?

DH: A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do some flying at the Quabbin Reservoir, about an hour west of Boston.  In 1938, due to the water supply demands of Boston, a decision was made to form the reservoir. Four towns, which are under the lake were “disincorporated”, all the residents forced to move, and the towns were flooded and since have been underwater since.

DG: You fly a DJI Phantom. How did you choose that copter? Why do you like it, and/or is there something you would change about it?

DH: By far and away, most features and technology for the money. In terms of improving, make the firmware for Mac users! I would imagine a large percentage of DJI’s customers are Mac users. It’s annoying to have to use a parallel to update the firmware. As far as the Phantom itself, payload and battery life are the valuable commodities. Both are completely usable as is, but hey, if it’s a wish list….

DG: What are your thoughts on integrating UAVs into the national airspace system?

DH: It’s not often technology puts government in a position where there is truly a policy vacuum. Without getting too deeply into the merits of the FAA’s Roadmap, I’ll make a few points.

  1. The FAA currently defines “small UAV’s” as 55 lbs or less and recognizes that 95% of all UAV’s will fit into this category. For this system to not place an unfair burden on operators of smaller UAV’s, like the Phantom, this category MUST be sub-divided to reflect risk, range, type of operation, and capabilities of the UAV.
  2. The heart and soul of NAS Roadmap NextGen is ADS-B deployment (at least for operator side), which is “Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) is a cooperative surveillance technology for tracking aircraft“. It’s entirely unrealistic to require operators of small UAV’s, going so far as to further define that as less than 10 lbs, to have expensive ADS-B transponders. Such systems are prohibitively expensive and also costly to maintain. Additionally, there would be a reduction in payload, plus the additional battery power that would be required.
  3. There needs to be a separate category for operators who don’t exceed 500ft and don’t operate outside of line-of-sight and furthermore, over-the-horizon. Realizing this would affect some FPV operators, maybe specify a range if outside of LOS.
  4. While I’m not opposed to the idea of the test sites, the wrong thing is being tested. As with anything in life, a device is only as safe as the person operating it. There should be a practical demonstration test for operators, baseline operating specifications, and practical test standards, similar to with airmen certification process. The practice of flying ANYTHING over people’s heads is a serious business. While I don’t want to see operators have an unobtainable or cost prohibitive barrier to entry, I think there must be some serious-minded commitment to safety. Flying a drone can be incredibly enjoyable. I want to see people be able to enjoy flying drones on both a private and commercial level, I just want to see both done responsibly. Translating that into a policies will be a challenge.

DG: What’s in your future?

DH: I plan to continue to operate the Phantom’s, and eventually, larger platforms for both personal and transitioning to commercial basis as regulations become further defined. This is a very exciting time to be involved with drones and UAV’s. . From a commercial basis, UAV’s have shown tremendous demand from the residential and commercial real estate markets, from golf courses and resorts, sporting events and special events, agriculture, and I’m sure other things we haven’t even thought of yet.

Related posts:
From kites to drones: a 365 photo-a-day, aerial photo challenge
CNN producer, first national network drone journalist speaks on legality of drone use
Scientist uses drones to count whales