Category Archives: News

6 Dronies to follow on Twitter

There are tons of great Dronies out there, and you should get to know them! Here are 7 Dronies you should follow on Twitter.

397eb70fa97a86c7aa9cf18a7e951433Missy Cummings: Nobody understands drone technology like Missy Cummings. As one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy and now a professor at MIT, she’s an expert on drone use. She always has constructive viewpoints on drones in the military as well as mediums such as farming. She’s thought out safety and surveillance implications. Also she’s an awesome female role model. Am I a fangirl? Of course! @Missy_Cummings

@Elevated Element: This is the account to follow if you want to see art made by drones (granted they are all pictures of Baltimore). The tweets behind it are a husband and wife duo who photograph their city. Beyond that, they also have smart commentary on law, ethics, STEM education and more. @ElevatedElement

8be6a7efcfd8d0985caa11877b381137Kike Calvo: He’s a brilliant photojournalist, and he’s swiftly becoming an expert on drones. I’m very obsessed with this interview he did with Missy Cummings for National Geographic, and it turns out he is working on a whole series on drones! Can’t wait for more! @Kikecalvo

Drone Conference: This seems to be the mega-super drone conference to date. It just happens, and boy am I bummed I missed it. Luckily, their thorough Twitter account made me feel like I’m there! This account includes a range of dialogue from policy to engineering to activism. @DroneConference

a65052b421b440629787f4ccaa0cb327Matt Waite: He’s a professor at the University of Nebraska and the founder of the Drone Journalism Lab. He’s probably among the first to even consider drone use in journalism. Never mind that he’s a University of Nebraska professor and therefore a Cornhusker (I’m a proud Mizzou Tiger from a rival, and obivously better j-school, kidding, but really). He’s brilliant and paving the way for drone journalism, and I’d sure like to take a journalism class from this brilliant professor.  @mattwaite

Drones4Good: Whenever I’m looking for a new, creative use for a drone, I look here! Drones have definitely been used for bad things, but this account highlights the positive things drones do. Saving salmon? Check. Tracking poachers? Check. Mapping the Matterhorn? Now that’s just crazy awesome. Good thing we have this Twitter account to track it all. @Drones4Good

Oh, and if you don’t follow me, you should definitely consider it. Or don’t even stop to consider it. Just do it! Right here: @thedronegirl.

3D Robotics Drone helps farmers with precision agriculture

Below is an excerpt from a story I originally wrote for 3D Robotics. I also directed and produced the accompanying video. Note: this project was completely unaffiliated with Drone Girl; I’m simply reposting it here on the blog.

Vigneron Paul Sloan spends a lot of time walking up and down his vineyards.

He walks every vineyard that he farms once week — all 14 of them. He sometimes walks them 2-3 times a week depending on how critical decisions are. Those are issues like irrigation leaks, color variation, or pests like nematodes.

Sloan, a winemaker and viticulturist at Small Vines Wines, still intends to walk through his vineyards, but he now aims to walk with more intention.

By using a drone manufactured by 3D Robotics, Sloan can use aerial images captured by a camera mounted to the drone which pinpoint areas in his vineyard that need more attention.

“If you flew before you walked, you could use that image to take you to specific places that could be of concern,” he said. “This might be able to help us show where the hot spots are, where the critical areas are.”


Those critical areas are places where water pressure isn’t high enough or irrigation lines are broken. Sloan can spot where those issues are with aerial images based on color difference, growth patterns or size.

“More yellowish leaves versus bright green leaves would give you bigger variation,” Sloan said. “Less vigorous would tend to be more yellow in color — you could tell it has less nitrogen.”

From looking at the images, Sloan could physically walk those targeted areas to decide what the issue is.

“It’s not going to prevent you from being in your vineyard,” he said. “It’s just going to give you a more targeted reason for being in your vineyard.”

Related posts:

From kites to drones: a 365 photo-a-day, aerial photo challenge

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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie

Kevin Lajoie‘s has been using a kite and 30-foot carbon fiber fishing pole to do aerial photography since 2008.

But his latest tool has no strings attached. Lajoie changed up his aerial photography technique after he received a quadcopter in March.

Lajoie is now in the midst of a year-long, photo-a-day challenge, which Lajoie is in the midst of right now. (Check out the photos lining this post, which have all been taken by Lajoie).

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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie

So far, he captured photos via a kite throughout the winter in Guernsey, documenting their second coolest on recording, including two separate snowfalls, a blizzard, and the airport getting shut down for three days.

When the snow ended, so his drone piloting began. Lajoie received a DJI Phantom drone in March, allowing him to get to places he would have to wait for specific winds with kites.

Here are some of Lajoie’s tips for flying and aerial photography:

  • Coastal locations are my usual preference simply because they are the most interesting.
  • Don’t fly near airports.
  • Be careful flying around areas with more human traffic around.
  • Avoid flying near people by using the summer months to get out early and use the longer days to your advantage.

Lajoie is currently in the Channel Islands, where he has photographed in Jersey, Alderney and Herm. He said he hopes to photograph the last main Channel Island of Sark before the year ends.

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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie
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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie

Lajoie’s aeiral photography by the numbers (so far):

  • Logged 104 KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) sessions
  • Logged 25 PAP (Pole Aerial Photography) sessions
  • Photographed at 314 with the Phantom
  • Flown approximately 400 times
  • 18,000 shutter actuations logged this year on his Nikon D5000
  • Took 11,000 pictures in 8 hours during one trip to Alderney in May and 7 flights with the Phantom, yielding 3000 images
  • Also uses GoPros and a Canon S100 Powershot

What’s next for Lajoie? He’ll be taking a ferry to France for an international Kite Aerial Photography Conference, where the CVCF (cerf-volant club de france) will be hosting a meet up to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first recognized kite aerial photograph taken by Artur Batut.

Find Lajoie’s photos on Flickr here.

Related posts:

Drones + Wine: how UAVs can help farmers harvest grapes

552675_536733593074328_1470466379_n-300x199Below is an excerpt from a story I originally wrote for 3D Robotics and which was picked up on sUAS news. I also directed and produced the accompanying video. Note: this project was completely unaffiliated with Drone Girl; I’m simply reposting it here on the blog.

Kenwood, Ca. — Something’s up at Kunde Family Vineyards.

Developers at 3D Robotics went to Kunde Family Vineyards, a family-owned vineyard, to test a project that could revolutionize agriculture by providing farmers with on-demand aerial images of their land.

Those images give farmers a bird’s-eye view, allowing them to see vine stress and color variation. Those variations can help indicate when to it’s best to harvest the grapes.


3D Robotics used both autonomous, fixed-wing planes and multi-rotors with a point-and-shoot camera mounted inside.

“They allowed me to select the section of the vineyard to sample these grapes,” DRNK Wines Winemaker Ryan Kunde said. “If I didn’t have that imagery — I know of some general variation from top to bottom, but I didn’t know about that crescent down at the bottom of the vineyard.”

That crescent is probably home to deeper soil and more water, Kunde said. Those differences mean Kunde can harvest his grapes earlier than he anticipated. Click here to read the rest of the story.

My story: why I believe drones can assist with journalism

Photo of Sally French, aka "Drone Girl" by Stuart Palley
Photo of Sally French, aka “Drone Girl” by Stuart Palley

The post below is an excerpt of a piece I freelanced for Investigative Reporters and Editors on Drone Journalism. You can read the piece in its entirety for free online here.

When I told my parents I was using my graduation money to buy a drone, they thought I was crazy.

“Why don’t you buy some camera gear instead?” they told me.

After all, graduating in May with a photojournalism degree means I’d no longer have access to the fancy Missouri j-school equipment locker I’d been spoiled by for the past few years.

But what my parents didn’t understand is that a drone is the ultimate in camera gear.

Imagine airing video about weather patterns impacting geese migration. The live-shot could actually take the viewer flying among the birds. Or how about reporting on a prairie fire? An overhead shot could reveal the path of the fire.

I’ve already done both of those myself through theMissouri School of Journalism’s drone journalism program. I was a member of the program in its first year. The laws and regulations are unclear, and none of us were very technical when it came to maintenance, so most of a time we didn’t know what we were doing. But that’s a good thing. The cool thing about pioneering something like a drone research program in a university setting is we could learn about this stunning new technology, yet we didn’t have the pressure of deadlines or financial limitations that a traditional media outlet would have.

And we thought what we were doing was legal, since we weren’t making a profit from it. Turns out, the FAA thought otherwise, as it recently sent a letter requiring the program to cease outdoor flight. I’m sure the FAA has the best intentions – after all, a drone recently fell into a crowd at a bull run, and another drone hit a groom during a wedding photography session. There certainly is a need for regulation.

But drones are here to stay, and people will continue flying — regulated or not.

Read the rest of this post over at the Investigative Reporters and Editors blog.

CNN producer, first national network drone journalist speaks on legality of drone use

Freelance photojournalist and former CNN producer in 2012  with a prototype of drone he developed called the Swarm Drone. The drone is designed to go into tornadoes as a safer alternative for storm chasers.
Freelance photojournalist and former CNN producer in 2012 with a prototype of drone he developed called the Swarm Drone. The drone is designed to go into tornadoes as a safer alternative for storm chasers. Photo courtesy of Aaron Brodie

In 2010, an IT employee at CNN went to the mall and bought his son a Parrot AR.Drone as a Christmas present.

That drone, a piece of equipment that’s more toy than tool, would become the first drone to air footage for a major national news network.

The pilot? Aaron Brodie, a producer with at the time, and now a freelance photojournalist and founder of Extreme Journalist, a multimedia storytelling startup

At the time, Brodie didn’t think much of the drone during his conversation with the IT guy. He was too inundated with other work to think about it.

But then the Tuscaloosa tornado happened.

A massive tornado cut a 5.9-mile path of destruction, damaging more than 5,700 structures. As the weather geek in the newsroom (every newsroom has one), Brodie was sent to cover the disaster for a few days.

A few days later, Brodie’s boss sent him back. This time, he was armed with the drone that belonged to their coworker’s son.

“It was a challenge to fly at first, and I didn’t read the instruction manual,” he said. “I started flying it around the newsroom and scared everybody to death flying it inside. I went back to Tuscaloosa and learned to fly in a park there.

Since that model of the Parrot didn’t allow video recording, Brodie “borrowed” (without asking) a GoPro from another department, hurried to Target to buy double-faced tape, stripped the drone down and took the foam protector off so it could carry the weight of the GoPro. Continue reading CNN producer, first national network drone journalist speaks on legality of drone use

Drone footage shows empty Crystal Cove cottages

CrystalCove17 empty, faded, rickety cottages sit on the beach. They’re situated at a prime real estate location, but renovating them would be starting over from scratch.

Neighbors had lived in the cottages since the 1920s and 30s, but after a series of state purchases, plans to build a resort and costly restoration bills, the cottages have remained empty since the residents were evicted in 2001.

This photo, as captured by my drone, shows the state of the cottages today.  The cottages could cost $20 million to repair.

Reporter Nicole Shine at the OC Register outlines the future of Crystal Cove here.

Scientist uses drones to count whales

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.

Wayne Perryman has spent the past decade developing aerial photographic techniques to count marine mammals. About four years ago, Perryman pick up a new technology – a drone — to better execute his work.

These days, it’s not just video he’s gathering, but whale snot.

“We’re going to build a hexacopter, attach a vacuum to it and fly it over a whale,” he said. “In the breath of a whale are little bits of cells and hormones, and we can look at that composition of air to see what it’s eating, if it’s male or female, or if it’s pregnant.”

With the vacuum bottle, Perryman will be able to remotely send a signal to open up the cover of the bottle when the whale blows up air and close it up again to collect the snot.

I got the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Perryman on his project – a different sort of whale watching. Enjoy!

Drone Girl: How does unmanned aircraft technology benefit your work?
Wayne Perryman: You just can’t get manned aircraft everywhere in the world, and planes are just too expensive. These are really just flying cameras, and they’re amazingly stable.

DG: Why are you using this aircraft to count animals?
WP: You photograph them from the air because humans are lousy at estimating them in groups. From our photos, you can measure their size and shape to get a feeling of their condition. Continue reading Scientist uses drones to count whales