Category Archives: News

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.”


UAV group links drone pilots with humanitarian groups

screen-shot-2014-06-24-at-2-23-08-pm-300x225-1This story was originally written for Read the entire story here.

Patrick Meier started off in the drone community with a story familiar to many. He was interested in photography as a hobby.

He bought the original DJI Phantom just to play around with. But he also happened to be working with the UN in Manila, Philippines in 2013, when Typhoon Yolanda struck. “I was there, and I kept coming across UAV project after UAV project,” he said. “There were a dozen projects.”

The issue? None of the projects were communicating with each other or sharing imagery.“Eventually I starting trying to put them in touch with each other,” Meier said.

That’s when he launched the Humanitarian UAV Network,,

A global network of civilian/hobbyist UAV pilots who safely and responsibly fly UAVs to support peaceful, humanitarian efforts.

Meier, whose extensive resume in humanitarian efforts includes cofounder of Crisis Mappers Pre-Doctoral Fellow at Stanford University and Co-Director of the Crisis Mapping Program at Harvard University, found that often drone pilots want to help in a disaster situation. But problems arise when they aren’t trained in appropriate humanitarian response techniques.

“We should not expect UAV groups to be experts in humanitarian response,” he said. “Meanwhile we (humanitarian groups) are the last adopters of every technology on the planet.” Merging the two groups could be the perfect pair, Meier realized. Pilots who have joined the network can post their location, equipment and work they are capable of doing, while a group needing a volunteer drone pilot can easily find someone to do the job.

While in the Philippines, Meier was able to connect a number of projects that extend throughout the life cycle of disaster response, including:

  • identifying areas where NGOs could set up camp
  • identify how badly houses had been damaged
  • gather information about road clearance operations to identify which should be prioritized for
  • clearance
  • search and rescue

This story continues here.

Disney may use drones in theme park entertainment

The following piece was originally written for Read the full story here.

Drones may be going to Disneyland.

Though they may sound like they could exist only in Tomorrowland, Disney is working on ways to use drones in its entertainment productions.disneyland drone patent

Disney applied for three UAV-related patents, indicating that drones could hold marionette or projection screens for nighttime entertainment.

“The inventors recognized that presently there are no mechanisms for creating very large aerial displays such as a display that is reusable/repeatable, dynamic, and interactive,” the patent states.

To address that need, Disney’s R&D department is working to create a multi-drone aerial display system and a ground control station that could choreograph repeatable movements.

The three applications are:

With the drones, larger-than-life puppets could be mounted with rods to fly through the air above Disneyland.

jack skellington drone patent drawing

“This is a significant improvement over prior flying characters, which typically were provided in the form of parade or other blimps/balloons filled with hot air or other gases and that had little and/or awkward articulation of any movable parts,” according to the patent.

The patent indicates that drones could even potentially replace fireworks, which can be dangerous and inconsistent. Instead, the patent calls for an aerial display system based on the floating pixel, or “flixel.” Each drone would carry a lighting assembly that could display images or colors, making use of the sky as a screen.

Read the rest of the story on

DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of

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

Aerial photographer Shane Latham can tell you that. He’s the Founder of Octofilms, he’s one of 10 DJI-sponsored pilots (and the only one in the U.S.), and he’s the only pilot in the U.S. to own a DJI S900.

Latham  already has a DJI S800 EVO, S1000 and has now added the S900 to his toolkit.

“The S900 the size of the S800 but with collapsible arms,” Latham is quick to point out.

The 3.3 kg hexacopter has foldable arms and is one of the lightest and easily to transport of the expert-level drones.

“The s900 is the new generation,” said DJI’s Marketing Manager Willis Chung.

Much of the weight reduction is in the arms and landing gear, made of carbon fiber.

“You can tell the weight loss right when you pick it up,” Latham said.

Latham’s favorite aspect of the S900? The removable top.

“It’s genius,” Latham said. “The top has a star pattern plate where you remove just 5-6 without having to take apart the frame.”

The S900 features an upper center board that can be removed, making an easy way to setup the power distribution system.

“Now you can easily remove the top, get down there, make any changes you need to do then put the top back on and you’re ready to go,” Latham said. “You can see and organize all your wires.”

Some other highlights of the S900:

  • Sparkproof plug to prevent short circuits
  • 18 minute flight time
  • 8.2 kg takeoff weight
  • Zenmuse gimbal compatible

“It’s like they listened to a lot of things users were asking for,” Latham said. Continue reading DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of