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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.

A lineup of drones you can actually afford

This story was originally written for Read the whole story here.

The consumer drone market has exploded in the five years since French company Parrot first introduced the $299 AR.Drone. 3D Robotics, maker of the Solo drone, has raised more than $100 million in venture capital to date, while Phantom drone maker DJI is on pace to make about $1 billion in sales this year.

But Parrot has found its niche in the market — by making drones you can actually afford.

Parrot on Tuesday announced new models of drones to their MiniDrones lineup, available in stores this fall.

Parrot’s MiniDrone was announced in June.

Parrot Airborne

Parrot’s Airborne drones are 1.2-pound flying robots that can be controlled via smartphones or tablets. A vertical camera allows users to take selfies. The drone can fly up to 11 miles per hour and can turn 180 degrees in less than a second. Different models allow customers to choose a drone with LED lights that allow it to fly during the day and night ($129), or a “Cargo” drone that allows it to carry figurines ($99). Both models have a nine-minute battery life and recharge in 25 minutes.

Parrot Hydrofoil

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.

“You’ve never seen a toy like this,” said Parrot Chief Marketing Officer Nicolas Halftermeyer. “It took a lot of time to design and balance, but at the same time it’s maneuverable so it won’t capsize in water.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Drone companies invest in yet more drone companies

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

Chinese-drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co. isn’t just the world’s largest maker of consumer drones — they’ve become a drone investor too.

Privately held DJI and venture-capital firm Accel Partners on Wednesday launched SkyFund, a $10 million investment vehicle geared toward drone start-ups.

The fund is intended to invest in companies that create industry-specific software applications for drones, such as those involving mapping, imaging, agriculture and inspection.

“SkyFund was created to develop new and amplify existing technology from around the world by championing developers and sparking a sense of curiosity about unmanned vehicles and services,” said Eric Cheng, general manager for San Francisco and director of aerial imaging at DJI.

“Hundreds of developers already use DJI’s platform, and SkyFund enables us to fund developers and businesses that imagine new opportunities,” Cheng said.

But they’re not the only big-time drone company that wants to invest in other drone companies.

Airware, Silicon Valley’s most heavily venture-capital-backed drone start-up launched a similar investment fund Wednesday, the Commercial Drone Fund, which will make investments of between $250,000 and $1 million each over the next two to three years. Airware has raised $40.4 million in five funding rounds, according to CrunchBase.

The Commercial Drone Fund is investing in technologies such as sensor hardware, which would improve the precision and speed of commercial drones, and software applications that could make operating drones safer or provide more innovative uses for drones.

Read the rest of this story here.

There’s an iPhone app to manage your flight logs


Mobile application Hover has been on the scene since 2014 as a “one-stop shop” drone application on the iTunes and Android app store.’

Now it’s got an update: flight logs.

“The new flight log feature automatically pulls data from your phone like location, time, and weather data,” according to a news release. “The pilot simply enters the location name, other technical flight details, and then the log is saved locally and e-mailed to the user.”

Previous versions of the free app also feature a flight readiness dashboard, real-time weather, an aggregated news feed and a no-fly zone feature.

“It’s the one stop solution for drone hobbyists,” co-founder Dan Held said. Continue reading There’s an iPhone app to manage your flight logs

Drones are turning into flying billboards

MW-DJ277_drone__20150407154847_ZHThis article was originally for Read the whole thing here.

Call it drone-vertising.

Drones have already been used for delivering packages, serving as waiters and photographing sporting events. The next wave of uses for drones? Flying billboards.

“People are fascinated with the concept,” said Eugene Stark, founder of Hoovy, a company that hangs banners from three to six foot wide drones and flies them over events and businesses.

And there’s money to be made.

“When I first started, the idea was to fly for $100 a day,” said Raj Singh, founder of DroneCast, a drone advertising business that launched in April 2014. “We got large offers for $25,000 for 4 hours.”

His client list includes Sony Corp.  and Dave and Buster’s Entertainment, Inc. He has also worked with the NFL and music festivals to live stream games and shows.

Drones have advantages over that other form of flying advertisement — blimps. Namely, they are smaller and thus significantly more nimble.

“We can fly lower to the ground and we don’t have to be as high as a blimp,” Stark said. “We can fly where the traditional advertising platforms cannot.”

Drone-based advertising still can’t compete with the sheer size of a blimp, or even a large billboard. Hoovy and DroneCast both say their banners are about 6 feet wide. The Goodyear blimp, to compare, is 246 feet long.

“We don’t get as many views as the blimp,” Stark said. “But the people that see the drone are more engaged with the advertising.”


Even before Hoovy, Stark was no stranger to drones. He previously worked on the business team for a robotics project at Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Read the entire article on

DJI’s new ‘Phantom’ drone streams real time through YouTube Live

This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for Read the full story here. Phantom 3

Chinese-drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. has come a long way since they released their first ready-to-fly drone, the Phantom, in January 2013.

The company, best known as DJI, on Wednesday announced the Phantom 3, a drone that integrates with YouTube Live to stream aerial footage in near real time. It comes in two variations, the Phantom 3 Professional ($1,259) and Phantom 3 Advanced ($999).
The Phantom 3 model is a huge leap for drone technology, matching the $2,899 Inspire 1 drone that DJI announced in 2014 in terms of technical specifications, but closer matching its predecessor, the $1,099 Phantom 2 Vision+ in cost and aesthetic.

The Phantom 3 controller comes integrated with DJI’s Lightbridge technology, which allows the drone operator to see what the drones camera is seeing at 1080p at 60 frames per second. It also is stabilized with a 3-axis gimbal. The three pound drone has 23 minutes of flight time and can fly at a maximum altitude of 6,000 meters above sea level.Phantom 3 - Remote 2

The difference between the Professional and Advanced model lies in the video quality; the Phantom 3 Professional is capable of shooting 4K video at up to 30 frames per second, while the Phantom 3 Advanced records at 1080p at 60 frames per second.

The drone also integrates with the DJI Pilot app, which comes with a flight simulator for operators to virtually practice flying and a ‘Director’ feature, which automatically edits shots from flights into short videos that can be shared instantly.

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