Category Archives: News

Behold, the rise of the drone film festival

This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for Read the entire thing here.

It seems like just about everyone in San Francisco has had a drone for a few years now, including this guy who proposed to his future-fiancee in Alamo Square.

And now, San Francisco is getting its first-ever drone film festival.

The Flying Robot international Film Festival is accepting submissions through Sept. 15 of short films less than five-minutes long, where aerial footage is central to the narrative.

“I had the idea for a drone film festival after witnessing the rise of so much epic aerial filmmaking over the past few years,” the festival’s creator, Eddie Codel, wrote on his website.

“Now that consumer camera drones are readily available and fairly inexpensive, we’re seeing a huge uptick in aerial cinema on YouTube and Vimeo. I want to highlight the best stuff out there and really encourage filmmakers to take it to the next level.”

Categories include “Cinematic,” “Aerial Sports,” “Drones for Good,” and “Student Film.” The winning films will be screened on Nov. 19 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

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This ‘airborne pet’ drone flies on a leash

This is an excerpt of an article written by Drone Girl for Read the entire story here.

When a two-pound toy drone crashed on the White House grounds in early 2015, the nation went into a frenzy over legal and safety issues surrounding drones.

President Barack Obama called for greater regulation of drones, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer brought up the specter of al Qaeda-manned drones, and the drone-maker itself installed a firmware update that prevents its drones from flying near the White House.

But one company’s potential technological solution seems completely contradictory to the purpose of drones: Putting them on a leash.

_MG_9426Zurich-based robotics company Perspectives Robotics AG plans to announce Tuesday the Fotokite Phi, a $349, consumer-grade “tethered flying camera.”

The drone flies itself on the end of a tether, controlled by simple gestures of the controller.

Perspectives Robotics is known for creating Fotokite Pro, a $10,000 drone that uses a tether to provide an unlimited power supply from the ground. Its users include journalists from the BBC. Now the company is targeting hobbyists looking for a small, portable drone to bring on hikes or to picnics.

“With the broadcast version, you’re looking at high-quality video,” founder Sergei Lupashin said. “With this, you’re looking at affordability and making them accessible.”

_MG_9425The Fotokite Phi is the only consumer drone on the market that doesn’t rely on remote piloting or GPS. Instead, the user points the leash in the direction they want to go and the drone follows.

“It’s a cross between an airborne pet and a steadicam in the sky,” Lupashin said.

At 12 ounces, it’s the lightest GoPro-carrying quadcopter on the market, and it folds into a compact carrying case about the size of a two-liter soda bottle. The leash extends 26 feet, which is about two and a half stories high.

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GoPro drone effort boosted by data, but leader DJI says it’s tougher than it looks

This excerpt comes from an article originally written by Sally French for Read the full story here.MW-DQ085_gopro__20150714183022_ZH

GoPro Inc. is set to launch a quadcopter drone in the first half of 2016, and FAA data shows the action-camera company could be a behemoth that challenges current drone makers for market dominance.

GoPro’s drone is entering the consumer-level drone market to some competition, primarily from Chinese drone maker Dajiang Innovation Technology along with smaller competitors including 3D Robotics, Inc. and Parrot SA.

Currently, 42.9% of U.S. drones that have been granted a Section 333 Exemption by the Federal Aviation Administration — allowing drone pilots to operate commercially — are manufactured by DJI. AeroVironment comes in second place with a 9.1% share of the total registered drones, trailed by 3D Robotics and PrecisionHawk, according to a Drone Analyst report. Goldman Sachs analysts also say DJI is the leading manufacturer of drones being used for commercial purposes, with an estimated 70% market share in 2014.

In other words, there’s really only one major consumer-based drone company that GoPro needs to compete with in a growing market for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Goldman Sachs estimates the drone market is worth $1.4 billion in 2015, but forecasts it to more than triple by 2017, based on the assumption that GoPro may produce wider appeal for consumer drones.

Drone Analyst

“Privately operated UAVs are a big opportunity,” GoPro spokesman Jeff Brown said. “We believe the recent spike in adoption is attributable to the jaw-dropping video content generated by consumers.”

But DJI says creating a drone, is a more difficult task than making a camera.

“Generally, creating a new drone is much harder than creating a new phone or camera,” DJI spokesman Michael Perry said. “The levels of quality control and testing involved are significantly harder for teams with smaller R&D teams.”

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DJI releases Phantom 3 Standard

large_P3C_01DJI’s drones just keep getting cheaper.

DJI this week released its most inexpensive drone yet.

Designed specifically for first-time pilots, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is much like the Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional, but with newbies in mind.

Unlike the Advanced and Professional with an unlimited maximum altitude that can fly as far as 6,500 feet safely, the Standard limits the altitude to 400 feet and can along fly as far as a half mile. The camera also shoots 2.7K video vs the Professional’s 4K video.

But the price tag is a lot easier on your wallet, selling for $799.

“Based on the remarkable success of the DJI Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced, we wanted to create a new drone that addresses people who are curious about aerial imaging, but not quite ready to commit to a more professional system,” said Frank Wang, DJI’s CEO and Founder. “The Phantom 3 Standard makes it easy to get into the air to take great photos and videos.”

Some specs for the Standard:

  • 2.7k HD video at 30 frames per second using a 94 degree distortion-free lens
  • Shoots still images at 12 megapixels in both DNG Raw and JPG formats.
  • Using a standard WiFi connection, allows pilots to see what their camera sees in near real time in HD, capture photos, start / stop record for video and adjust camera settings all from the DJI Go app.
  • Follow Me – The drone intelligently follows the user based on their orientation.
  • Waypoint Navigation – Allows users to set a multi-point route that the Phantom 3 flies automatically while leaving camera control (pan and tilt) to the user. 
  • Point of Interest – Lets users define an object that the Phantom will fly around in a circle with the object framed in the center

Here’s DJI’s promo video.

Sony’s drones will have a different mission

MW-DQ618_sony_d_20150722165551_ZH-1This excerpt comes from an article originally written by Sally French for Read the full story here.

Sony is the latest company to get into drones, but not in the way that you would expect.

The company likely won’t use drones to film its upcoming emoji movie, and they probably won’t go the route of GoPro in introducing a quadcopter drone.

Instead, Sony’s drones will look for data.

Sony Mobile Communications Inc. SNE, -0.25% announced Wednesday it is collaborating with Japanese robotics firm ZMP Inc. to develop and launch autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles for image capture combined with cloud-based data processing. The two companies are jointly founding and owning Aerosense Inc., which will use data from drones for measuring, surveying, observing and inspecting.

That means a farmer may use Aerosense to monitor discoloration in her crops, or an insurance company could use drones to inspect a building.

“Sony Mobile is proactively engaging in new business creation initiatives, with a particular focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) sector,” according to a Sony news release. “This joint venture represents a part of this push into IoT, as Sony strives to provide its customers with additional value by developing and managing total package cloud solutions.”

A Sony spokesman told The Wall Street Journal it would sell services using drones, but not the drones themselves.

“Aerosense devices will be equipped with Sony image sensors, a core product for the company used in Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Samsung Electronic Co.’s Galaxy,” the Journal reported.

For all the fear surrounding drones mounted with guns or skepticism about whether Amazon’s delivery drones would really work, it seems that using drones for data may be the future.

“If drones are going to change our society in the very near future, it won’t be because we got our Kleenex delivered from the air instead of by truck,” New American field analyst Faine Greenwood wrote in an article on Slate. “It will be because they democratized access to information.”

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Christmas in July: a guide to this summer’s newest drones for sale

Most of the major players debut their new drones around CES (think  DJI’s Inspire, the Nixie wearable drone and the Hubsan X4 with parachute).

But even with conference season at a lull, a few new drones have hit the market this summer.

Here’s a look at this summer’s new drones:

Typhoon Q500 4K
Typhoon Q500 4K

Typhoon Q500 4K

The new model is an improvement on the Typhoon Q500, boasting a 4K camera and introduces a unique feature know as ‘Steady Grip’ that turns the Typhoon into an “Air and Ground Imaging Solution.”

The drone, made by Yuneec International, has smart features including:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal Camera
  • Geo-fencing
  • Speed Control
  • Follow Me and Watch Me 

Cost: $1,299

Flytrex Sky
Flytrex Sky

Flytrex Sky

Flytrex released what it dubbed “the industry’s first personal delivery drone.”

Ready to fly out of the box, (though you’ll want your own GoPro), this drone is unique for its “loading bay” which allows for small packages to be mounted to the drone.

The drone relies heavily on the Skytrex Pilot app, which supports manual and auto pilot features, auto-takeoff and landing, return to home and more features that makes flying fun and simple.

Cost: $749

Who needs Amazon Delivery when you can have your own delivery drone?


Parrot MiniDrones

Parrot’s lineup of drones is one you can actually afford. Parrot’s new MiniDrone line conquers air, water and land with rover, aquatic and aerial drones.

The Hydrofoil ($179) is perhaps the most unique in Parrot’s new lineup. It does everything the Airborne drone does, but it also comes with a hydrofoil, allowing it to skim across the water. It is the first water-oriented drone in the consumer market, according to Parrot.

Cost: $99-189

Are you purchasing a drone this summer? Which one do you have your eye on?

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SkyPixel’s Perspectives Gallery — a must see for Bay Area dronies

Anders A Bildreportage AB, SkyPixel
Anders A Bildreportage AB, SkyPixel

SkyPixel’s Perspectives Gallery is a must-see for anyone who has ever taken a picture with a drone (or wants to).

SkyPixel (an offshoot of leading drone maker DJI that serves as a photo-sharing community with an emphasis on DJI products), is currently touring worldwide with a gallery featuring members’ photos, called Perspectives.

San Francisco’s gallery opened Friday night and will run through July 19.

The gallery is situated in a magnificent little space, tucked into a corner street just between San Francisco’s Financial District and North Beach gallery in a lofted boutique.

About three dozen photos are printed on canvas — resembling fine art rather than the Instagram shots from GoPros that most consumers of drone photography are used to seeing. Printed on Epson Signature Worthy Exhibition Canvas Natural Gloss media, the photos have an exhibition quality that makes it hard to believe they were shot on a drone — a fact that would be believable except for the obvious clue that all these photos are aerial shots.

Finely curated from some of the world’s top drone photographers including Stacy Garlington, Smithsonian featured photographer Laurie Rubin, DJI’s Director of Education Romeo Durscher and Jeff Cable, the images set a new standard for what drone art really means.

It’s no longer enough to post an aerial shot that gets 100 likes on Facebook simply because it’s an angle people have never seen before. Perspectives has set the bar much higher.

Garlington’s “Autumn in Illinois” shows the transition from fall to winter as colorful red and orange fall leaves sit on the ground, scattered around a tree. But the leaves are just the background, framing the photos’ subject — the spindly branches of a maple tree, indicating that winter has arrived.


Continue reading SkyPixel’s Perspectives Gallery — a must see for Bay Area dronies

There’s a new Silicon Valley of drones, and it isn’t in California

This piece was originally written for Read the entire story here.


The “Silicon Valley of drones” is taking shape in a place you probably wouldn’t expect.

With the most open airspace in the country, vast tracts of farmland, infrastructure to test on and the nation’s first unmanned aircraft degree program, it makes sense that North Dakota would be the place for drone technology to spread its wings, and it’s now expanding at an unprecedented rate.

The U.S. has previously been circumspect about allowing companies to commercialize drones; murky rulings from the Federal Aviation Administration and the haphazard enforcement of laws have made it challenging for drone companies to operate in the U.S. — so challenging, in fact, that many operators, including Amazon Prime Air, have expressed an intention to leave the U.S. to work in other countries.
But it’s a different story in North Dakota.

This summer, the nation’s first unmanned airport, the Grand Sky Development Park, opens at the state’s Grand Forks Air Force Base. The project, which has 1.2 million square feet of hangar, office and data space, is being developed by Grand Sky Development Co. A runway will allow for traditional and vertical takeoffs by drones.

The airport is expected to generate about 3,000 jobs by its 2016 completion, including 1,000 permanent jobs on site, 1,000 jobs around the community and 1,000 jobs outside the state, said Tom Swoyer, the project’s developer. Pilots would be able to control drones launching at the site from anywhere in the world.

“It’s going to touch a lot of places,” Swoyer said. “A pilot could be in Southern California and pilot the plane launched from North Dakota.”

It’s an appealing proposition for companies like Northrop Grumman NOC, -0.71% , which has signed on as the site’s anchor tenant but has its aerospace-systems headquarters in Redondo Beach, Calif.

North Dakota committed $5 million to help bring infrastructure to the site as part of its 2015-17 executive budget and another $7.5 million in grants for runway improvements. With the project expected to cost about $25 million in total, the balance will be covered by private investment, said Swoyer.

“This project evolved here in North Dakota with the right combination of political will and an economy that was growing,” Swoyer said. “It’s a state that is investing in the industry. It’s a community willing to raise their hands and say, ‘Let’s try something completely different.’ ”

A community ‘all focused on unmanned aviation’
In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) considered closing the Air Force base.

“Our performance and safety record in fighter aircraft was unprecedented, but despite that our aircraft were getting old and weren’t going to get replaced,” said Robert Becklund, then commander of the North Dakota Air National Guard.

To avoid a drastic action by BRAC, the base made a bold move — replacing its KC-135 Stratotankers with drones.

“This was a dramatic change going from a single-seat manned fighter aircraft to unmanned aircraft,” Becklund said. “But it was the right thing to do for the nation.”

The base is now the site of the Global Hawk and MQ-1 Predator drone aircraft.

At about the same time, the University of North Dakota established a “center of excellence” for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), offering the nation’s first undergraduate degree program in unmanned aviation. Five students received degrees in 2011, the program’s first graduating class. Today, more than 100 students are enrolled, and the program is one of more than 30 similar degree programs at universities throughout the country.

“We have academia, our military, the Department of Homeland Security and industries in the region all focused on unmanned aviation,” Becklund said.

In 2014, North Dakota was one of six states allowed to develop a test site for commercial drone applications: the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks. The site is part of an FAA program looking toward the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into airspace.

North Dakota’s test site was the first to earn operational designation from the FAA and the first to fly under the agreement. The site covers more than half the state, boasting 45,000 square miles of authorized airspace — the largest such volume of any single state.

Read the rest of the story here.