Category Archives: News

The story behind DJI’s Inspire

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

The new Inspire 1 started shipping this week. We went behind-the-scenes with Eric Cheng to find out more about the meaning behind the copter.

Where did DJI’s drone name “Inspire 1” come from?

‘“The process of naming is fluid,” says Eric Cheng, Director of Aerial Imaging at DJI. “It’s collaborative.”

He tells me this after a DJI press event to announce the Inspire 1. As staff members break down the remaining chairs, photo booths and even drone cages, at an event venue on Treasure Island, just off the coast of San Francisco, Cheng sticks around, talking to everyone present.

Cheng joined DJI last year, but was already well known among dronies. Maybe it was his background at Lytro, where he served as Director of Photography. Or perhaps it was his myriad of award-winning underwater photos Maybe it was his leadership within the drone community already, as he came into the mainstream eye with video of surfers shot from a drone (watch below).

Aerial footage of surfers at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz (DJI Phantom) from Eric Cheng on Vimeo.

But back to the naming of the new drone. That’s what you clicked on.

“All the futuristic sci-fi names are already taken, like the Predator,” Cheng says.

It’s not like you want to name a product that is under the scrutiny of millions of Americans the Predator though, right?

“Triumph was the internal code name,” he says.

“I sort of like that,” I told him. It’s like the feeling when you successfully make that first, heart-pounding flight. It’s when you realize you’ve gotten some stellar footage. Continue reading The story behind DJI’s Inspire

Mythbusters reveal drones are used on set

Photo via
Photo via

Martha Stewart has a drone. Rupert Murdoch has flown a drone. But the newest celebrities to use a drone really aren’t all that surprising.

Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Mythbusters revealed that they have been using flying cameras in productions for years.

“Up until (recently), we had used helicopters, but that was a $5,000-15,000 solution,” Savage said.

“We started looking into this camera platform five or six years ago, but it just never worked out,” Hyneman said.

Jump to five years later, and with improvements like telemetry, the Mythbusters rely on drones to propel their show forward.

“It’s a tool for storytelling,” Savage said. “That’s what we do on Mythbusters — we tell stories. It’s not just the master shot that is really cute or really cool. It’s telling the audience where we’re going.”

A custom-built octorotor was used in the last two seasons, where flying shots introduced the beginning of episodes. Other uses of drones were in an episode shot at Pebble Beach.

“It’s an amazing time because of how much hacking is driving innovation,” Savage said.

Savage is referring to hacker movements like DIYdrones and DJI’s app store.

And Hyneman said he believes drones will become ubiquitous eventually.

“All of us remember the time when there weren’t cellphones, he said. “Drones are in that world right now. Things that we would have never thought were possible ten years ago are commonplace now.”

Inaugural LA Drone Expo celebrates the technology’s use for good

LOS ANGELES – Their backgrounds in the drone field ranged from marine conservation to robotics research and development to film and TV production, but the speakers and panelists at the LA Drone Expo overwhelming used their spotlight to discuss the possibilities the new technology can bring to the world.

Of course, that was not without a short disruption by protesters.

Photo: Tim Worden

Drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are emerging as the next decade’s multibillion dollar industry with applications in anything from making family vacation videos to helping business run more efficiently, experts said at the convention.

“What I’ve seen is that this has now became a product for everyone,” economist Tom Marchesello said in the expo’s opening keynote address.

Presented by the Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle Systems Association, the expo, believed to be the largest of its kind in the world, was staged to unite the fledgling drone community, which has so far been largely spread across small groups of filmmakers, hobbyists and researchers with little organization to banner under.

Photo: Tim Worden

Vendors and speakers comprised of a wide range of pioneers in the field, from DJI and 3D Robotics to Drone Dudes and law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, which works with aerial production companies seeking to get an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone regulations, which essentially bars commercial drone use and has been a high point of contention in the industry. Continue reading Inaugural LA Drone Expo celebrates the technology’s use for good

Enter your footage in the NYC Drone Film Festival

Think your drone footage is better than this? Then enter it in the New York City Drone Film Festival, accepting submissions now through December 28, 2014. The sites website states:

New York City Drone Film Festival is the world’s first event exclusively dedicated to celebrating the art of drone cinematography.  The festival provides a platform for aerial filmmakers to showcase their work, emphasizing innovative flight technique, aesthetic beauty, and even epic crashes.  Director, landscape photographer, and aerial cinematographer Randy Scott Slavin founded the festival in 2014 with a desire to change the perceptions of drones. “I’m tired of drones being synonymous with questionable legality and FAA regulation. I want to celebrate the art of aerial cinematography.”

Entries must be under 5 minutes in length and will be judged based on categories including technical difficulty and innovation.

For more information and to enter, visit NYC Drone Film Festival.

DJI’s newest drone, Inspire 1 with 3-axis gimbal and retractable landing gear

DJI tonight announced its newest drone that goes beyond the hobbyist market and into enterprise uses including search and rescue and humanitarian efforts.

No longer the cute DJI Phantom with rounded edges that look more reminiscent of Wall*E’s friend Eve than a scary robot, this drone has drawn influences from the Parrot style. Oh, and it has retractable landing gear.

So what sets this apart from the Phantom? For one, check out the camera. It produces high-definition, 4k, 360-degree aerial video that streams back to the device in real time. Plus, it’s got retractable landing gear.

Some specs:

  • 6 pounds
  • Flies up to 45 mph
  • Soar as far as 300 meters up into the sky
  • Can reach 700 meters from the operator
  • Return-to-home feature
  • 18-minute flight time (compared with 25 minutes for the Phantom)

The Inspire 1 will sell for around $3,000.

Journalist explains using drones to hold factory farms accountable

Oivind Hovland/Wired
Oivind Hovland/Wired

When I first got interested in drones, it was through journalism.  Journalists keep governments, corporations and people accountable through public records, connecting facts, talking to people and gathering stories and images. With a drone, you can easily gather aerial images — which is why this man’s account of using drones to hold factory farms accountable is so crucial. The following is an excerpt from Will Potter’s story in Wired:

The agriculture industry is waging an international campaign to create a media blackout. In response to a series of investigations by animal-welfare groups that has resulted in criminal prosecutions and consumer outrage, the industry is promoting new “ag-gag” laws that make it illegal to photograph factory farms and slaughterhouses. About half a dozen US states currently have these laws, and now this censorship model is being adopted internationally.

So how should journalists respond to investigative methods and sources being criminalised? Just as the best response to governments banning books is to encourage reading them, the best response to banning photographs is to encourage more photography. It’s time for journalists to send in the drones.

As a reporter, I always want to see what’s hidden. When government documents are redacted, it naturally makes them more intriguing. And when factory farms introduce new laws to prohibit media exposure, it makes me want to see what it is that they are hiding.

That’s why, for my next investigation, I will be using aerial drone photography to investigate factory farms, particularly in states where these “ag-gag” laws are being debated. I’m not the only one who is curious: my Kickstarter to finance the project was funded by nearly 500 supporters in just five days, and the response was so overwhelming that the project has been expanded.

“Drones are cheap, simple and potential game changers for newsrooms,” the Columbia Journalism Review recently noted in a cover story. In the hands of journalists, drones are already being used to document mass protests, wildlife, oil spills, war-torn landscapes and natural disasters.

Read more here.

Intel Capital is latest investment group to fund drones

Intel Capital announced today its participation in PrecisionHawk’s $10 million series B funding round.

PrecisionHawk, a startup that operates UAVs for data gathering, processing and analysis, is the latest startup to receive major funding from an investment group. Since the funding round was announced, PrecisionHawk has launched a tool called DataMapper that automatically interprets data from a UAV. They have also announced plans to release a new model of its fixed-wing UAV, Lancaster Mark IV, in early 2015.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 2.41.37 PMAmong PrecisionHawk’s problems they aim to solve include:

  • Better monitoring crops and predicting yield to help feed a growing population
  • Overseeing operations across hundreds of oil rigs so we catch oil spills in square feet instead of square miles
  • Assessing property damage to immediately issue insurance claim checks after a disaster.

“Drones hold the promise of revolutionizing many industries, some new and some very old, like farming,” said Intel’s Jerry Bautista in a news release. “We are pleased to be working with PrecisionHawk, whose unique approach of combining versatile remote-sensing devices with powerful data analytics fits well with Intel’s strengths in hardware and software for the Internet of Things.”