Category Archives: News

“Air traffic control for drones” company Skyward brings top FAA drone guy on board

Jim Williams
Jim Williams

Portland-based Skyward, which is working to create an “air traffic control for drones” type platform, named Jim Williams, former manager of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office to its advisory board.

Williams, who retired from his post at the FAA in June of this year, was well-liked among the greater drone community, which has otherwise expressed frustration as the FAA continues to miss deadlines around regulating drones.

“There can be no doubt that Jim has moved the dialogue forward during his time at the UASIO and has shown he is willing to listen,” according to a post on SUAS news.

And it’s likely to mean good things for Skyward, which is trying to position itself as the platform for drone pilots to track airspace data needed for business, insurance or regulatory requirements, with eyes set on big name clients such as Google, Amazon and NASA.

Williams may be that hurdle in propelling Skyward to the forefront of discussion around drone traffic control.

“Jim’s experience across aviation agencies brings a new depth to our advisory board,” said Jonathan Evans, Skyward CEO, in a prepared statement. “His insight into the way the infrastructure of aviation works today and how drone integration will work moving forward is fundamental to providing the best information management solutions to our customers.”

Williams has an extensive background in both manned and unmanned aircraft, having led the engineering team in the FAA’s NextGen Organization before joining the UAS Integration Office in 2012. He also worked in the Atlanta Aircraft Certification Office, at Lockheed-Georgia Company and at NASA.

Yuneec catches whale snot for science using drone rebranded as “snot bot”

Wayne Perryman, leader at the Cetacean Health and Life History Program, holds a hexacopter. Photo courtesy of Wayne Perryman.
Wayne Perryman, leader at the Cetacean Health and Life History Program, holds a hexacopter. Photo courtesy of Wayne Perryman.

To date, my favorite story about a use case for drones is hands down Wayne Perryman, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who built a contraption for drones that allowed it to capture data from when a whale blows out what is essentially snot. And that snot contains valuable information for researchers, including little bits of cells and hormones to see what it’s eating, if it’s male or female, or if it’s pregnant.

It’s noninvasive, and it’s hands down incredible. (Read my Q&A with Perryman here).

Today, major drone manufacturer Yuneec International announced a similar partnership with Ocean Alliance, which will use Yuneec’s drones to collect data from whales. To do the research, scientists attach a petri dish to drones flown into the cloud of spray exhaled by whales when they surface. The drones, which they call “snot bots” can gather data that tell scientists about the health and fitness of the whale, as well as allow scientists to retrieve the data without the whale even noticing.MW-DZ410_whales_20151116151102_NS
Current methods of collecting the data from whales involves firing a biopsy dart from a crossbow, which causes stress to the whales.

“Snot bots are designed to remove the potential harm caused to whales during the research process,” said Iain Kerr, CEO of Ocean Alliance. “This is a lottery win for us as a company, the animals we study, and ultimately, humanity.”

I wrote about 5 other wild uses for drones over at MarketWatch.com. Check them out.
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When it comes to commercial drones, appearances don’t really matter, study finds

MW-DZ124_drone__20151111132649_ZHThe following is an excerpt of a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here. 

Looks don’t matter – at least, not if you’re talking about a drone.

A study out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas found that the design of a drone doesn’t actually impact people’s perceptions of drones.

The study asked 647 people in the U.S. to rate their perception of drones that they saw in pictures, manipulated across four factors – color, propeller blades, legs and propeller safety guards.
What the researchers found was “completely surprising.”

“People’s perception is that a drone is a drone is a drone,” said Joel Lieberman, professor and chair of the UNLV criminal Justice Department and co-author on the study. “It doesn’t matter so much how it looks” — which runs counter to a common design assumption that appearance can dramatically affect how consumers feel about a product.

Lieberman got the idea for the study partially after watching the Audi commercial where hundreds of ominous black drones with eight blades descend upon a parking lot, a parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

“UAVs in that case look pretty scary,” he said. “If it’s really simple with a bright friendly color, would people be more receptive to it?”

Study participants were asked to self-asses their moods when looking at drones of various colors (white, black and orange) or with various numbers of blades (four, six, or eight).

Researchers went in with the assumption that a white drone with rounded edges, such as a DJI Phantom, would be received better than a drone with multiple blades and sharp, pointy legs. The wildly popular DJI drones are expected to exceed $1 billion in sales this year, but it may not be the drone’s approachable looks that are driving sales, the study indicates.

The study found that people ranked their mood with the same score for each photo, whether the drone in the photo resembled a spindly, black spider or a soft, white cloud.

More important than aesthetic to shaping drone acceptance is function, the study found. Participants were more inclined to rate their acceptance of drones higher or lower based on what type of function the drone had, rather than what it looked like.

But that’s not to say drone makers aren’t meticulous about the effort they put into designing drones and, as some point out, form and function go hand in hand.

“We don’t want our vehicles to look like camera drones that can spy or invade privacy,” said Marc Shillum, an Advisory Board Member and Design Chair at Matternet, a company that builds delivery drones with a focus on medical supplies. “This is essential medical, diagnostic samples we’re delivering.”

The design of Matternet’s drone is intended to convey that it’s going somewhere important, particularly in conflict zones that need medical supplies quickly.

Read the rest of this story here.

Parrot and PowerUp launch Kickstarter for paper airplane drone

PowerUpFPV5Who needs carbon fiber when you have paper?

French drone maker Parrot, maker of the popular Bebop drone, and PowerUp Toys today launched a new Kickstarter for the world’s first paper airplane drone with a live-streaming camera on it.

Yes, a paper airplane drone — and it’s being made through Kickstarter with a funding goal of $100,000.

The Tel Aviv-based company PowerUp Toys is not new to the remote-controlled paper space. The company’s $49.99 smartphone controlled paper airplane allows flyers to control the motor’s power for descending or ascending during flight; and the rudder for changing direction. That raised $1.2 million in a Kickstarter campaign. The company also previously made a paper motor boat.

PowerUpFPV13But their latest product creates a first-person-viewing (FPV) experience via paper drone, letting  people experience what it’s like to sit in the cockpit of a paper airplane, directly on their smartphone, or using a Google Cardboard headset.

“As a pilot, I wanted to give people the same feeling of sitting in the cockpit and being the controls with the simplicity of paper airplanes,” said Shai Goitein, CEO of PowerUp Toys. “With a live video experience straight to your cell phone or VR headset, you can control the plane with movements of your head, giving you the sense that you are flying through the air, riding your paper airplane.”

PowerUp is partnering with Parrot, which provides the wifi video stream for the PC Boards. The partnership began when Goitein met Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux a year ago at CES, a PowerUp spokesperson said.

Win a FREE copy of PhotoshopCAFE’s drone handbook

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Planning on giving or receiving a drone this holiday season?

The holidays came early to The Drone Girl HQ this year, which means it’s already giveaway season.

The latest giveaway? A copy of Colin Smith’s DJI Phantom Quadcopter Drones Aerial Videography and Photography Handbook (a $79.99 value!).

The video features Phantoms 1 and 2 (Vision +) Quadcopters. A fully comprehensive guide, it coaches you through what you need to know to fly precisely and safely.

To win, simply RT the tweet below before 9 am ET on Nov. 13. ONE winner will be chosen by a random lottery. Winners will be contacted via Twitter Direct message for shipping information. If the winner hasn’t responded within 72 hours, a new winner will be contacted.

Happy flying!

Drone photographer and expert Eric Cheng to release new book on drones

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Eric Cheng, DJI’s former Director of Aerial Imaging, is now releasing a guidebook geared toward beginner consumer drone owners.

Titled “Aerial Photography and Videography Using Drones” the book is marketed as a “timely educational resource, written to help beginner-and-intermediate drone pilots learn how to capture pictures and videos from the air safely and proficiently,” according to a news release.

Cheng also formerly served as Director of Photography at Lytro and is on the advisory board of the U.S. Association of Unmanned Aerial Videographers (UAVUS).

Most of the guidebook is geared toward DJI Phantom 3 quadcopters and drones that carry the GoPro HERO series.

aerial+photography+book+cover“Eric is perhaps the most dedicated envelope-pusher I’ve ever met when it comes to equipment and technology,” said Adam Savage, co-host of the Discovery Chanel show, Mythbusters. “You couldn’t ask for a better field guide to this new frontier.”

The book arrives on shelves Oct. 29, 2015.

Wal-Mart reveals it has been testing drone delivery for months

The following story is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire piece here.

Wal-Mart intends to test drones for package delivery and pickup and for checking warehouse inventories.

The retailer submitted an application Monday to U.S. regulators for permission to test drones outdoors, following in Amazon’s footsteps. Drones would be used for “deliveries to customers at Wal-Mart facilities, as well as to consumer homes,” according to the application.

“Throughout the years, Wal-Mart has been a leader in distribution and transportation methods to effectively move merchandise from vendors to distribution centers and from distribution centers to its stores,” the application states. It says Wal-Mart hopes to make its present distribution system “more efficient.”

Read a copy of the request here.

“We’ll have different methods that we’ll be testing out across our supply chain,” said Wal-Mart spokesperson Brian Nick. “We would be testing this kind of technology to mange our network of distribution centers, online fulfillment centers, as well as stores.”

Most long-distance drone deliveries are limited by flight times, since most drones are only able to fly about 25 minutes at a time. But Wal-Mart thinks it can capitalize on their expanse of stores to turn drone delivery into a real possibility.

There’s a Wal-Mart store located within five miles of 70% of the U.S. population, Nick said.

“That certainly creates some interesting possibilities for us,” he said.

Read the rest of this story here.

Watch Google Project Wing drone successfully deliver a package

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

It’s not just Amazon.com  that’s working on drone delivery. Alphabet’s Google X is delivering goods by drone, and there is a new video to prove it.

Aaref Hilaly, a partner with Sequoia Capital, tweeted out video of a drone dropping off a small package during a Google event in Arizona on Monday.

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