Category Archives: Q&A

3 advantages, and 3 disadvantages of having a Part 107 license

The next question in our Ask Drone Girl series has to do with the Part 107 license. But it has nothing to do  with how to get one — but rather IF you should get one. Turns out there are pros and cons to having a Part 107 license — besides the obvious one of making money.

What are the advantages to having a FAA drone license versus recreational use other than making a profit? Are you allowed to fly the drone in more areas?

While having a Part 107 license is essential if you want to use your drone to make money, there may actually be some negative things that come with having the license.

For the uninitiated, the Part 107 license is like a driver’s license for commercial drone pilots. To get one, you must pass a written test proving knowledge of the airspace. Once you have one, you must also agree to  a strict set of rules, including that you will not fly in controlled airspace, won’t fly over people, won’t fly after dark, etc. — all unless special permission is obtained. Continue reading 3 advantages, and 3 disadvantages of having a Part 107 license

The best camera drones with a zoom lens for home inspections

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about what type of drone to purchase for home inspections (the main requirement is a zoomed lens…no wide aerial video necessary). If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m starting a home inspection business. I need to be able to take close/detailed pictures of different parts of a house roof, such as the chimney, pipes coming out of the roof, top ridge of the roof. What’s your opinion for a camera to provide detailed close-up pictures and a stable, slow drone? 

Looking for a drone to use for home inspections?

If you have the budget, DJI’s Zenmuse Z30 is arguably the most powerful zoom camera designed specifically for drones on the market. It has a 30x optical and 6x digital zoom, giving it a total magnification of up to 180x. The camera is being used for inspections of all sorts — cell towers, wind turbines and more. The Zenmuse Z30 is designed for DJI’s Matrice drones. But at just under $9,000 (plus you’ll have to buy the Matrice), it’s not cheap.

The camera is ready to go out of the box, and yes — the Matrice is an incredibly stable drone.

Related read: Need a zoom lens for your drone? This may be it

DJI also has a stellar lineup of lower cost zoom lenses for its drones.

My first pick on the more affordable side of things for a commercial-quality, zoom lens, would be the DJI Zenmuse X5S. Its focal length ranges from 9mm to 45 mm (equivalent to 18 mm-90 mm on a 35mm camera). The camera is compatible with the DJI Inspire 2 (sold separately), which is an incredible drone to fly. It’s stable, and can fly at a variety of speeds — including the slow and controlled speed you are looking for.

At a slightly lower cost, the Zenmuse Z3 gimbal and camera features an optical zoom with 3.5 optical zoom and 2x digital zoom. It can be mounted on the Inspire 1, the Matrice 100 or the Matrice 600. The nice thing about the Zenmuse Z3 is that it is compatiable with the lower cost Inspire 1, vs. the Inspire 2.

Related read: DJI now offers a zoom camera with Zenmuse Z3

However, DJI is not your only option. The Walkera Voyager 4 is also an incredible choice. It has a zoom lens that offers 16x magnification. In fact, it’s zoom is even more than the DJI Zenmuse Z3 camera system. The camera on the Zenmuse Z3 has a zoom range of 22 to 77 mm, while the Voyager 4 has a range of a whopping 10 to 1500mm.

It’s also going to be high quality video, offering a gimbal-stailized, 360-camera, which could be important for the inspections you need to do (it means you can turn the camera around to shoot behind you without needing to turn the drone!).

The market for inspections is growing. Goldman Sachs predicts an $100 billion market opportunity for drones between now and 2020, with the utilities sector generating a total addressable market of $93 million.

Keep in mind that in order to fly a drone commercially, you need to obtain a Part 107 license. Here’s an awesome study guide, here are some frequently asked questions, and here’s my video review of exactly what taking the test is like. I highly recommend studying with Drone Pilot Ground School. Use this link to get $50 off!

Starting a drone business? Here’s what kind of revenue you can expect.

Drone job postings and verifiable flight hours: how can I log my drone flights?

I am considering “the drone life” and am interested in pursuing it as a career in some fashion. I see many companies hiring but one of the requirements say “500 hours of verifiable PIC time”.

Do you know what is considered “verifiable”? Is my chicken scratch that is written in a log book considered “verifiable” when there is no one with me to officially sign off my flights, as they do in private pilot courses of manned aircraft? The word “verifiable” gives me some concern. 

Welcome to the drone world! The drone industry is an exciting one, as there are jobs for people in all sorts of backgrounds, and not just flying drones. The drone industry needs engineers, storytellers, policy makers, lawyers, businesspeople and more. But it sounds like you want to actually fly for a living, so we’ll talk about that! Continue reading Drone job postings and verifiable flight hours: how can I log my drone flights?

Ask Drone Girl: how do I build a recreational drone park?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about building a recreational drone park. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Some partners and I are looking to build a recreational drone flying park in the state of Delaware. Are there any specifications for something like this? Any architects in this area? Thanks in advance for your help.

This sounds like fun! Recreational drone parks are a fairly new development. Unlike sports that have specifications as to the size of the field or court, or requirements as to the height of something like a basket, drones are the wild west and there really are no standards as to what a drone park should look like. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: how do I build a recreational drone park?

Ask Drone Girl: I think my ex is stalking me via drone

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone stalking, and identifying the drone pilot. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Dear Drone Girl, I believe my ex is stalking me via drone. I have multiple pictures from my security cameras. How can I check to see if he is registered for flying UAS or has registered to fly UAS?

Yikes, that is scary! Drone stalking is interesting. They are loud and large so they are actually pretty noticeable. Clearly you noticed them. The tricky thing though is it can be difficult to identify the pilot. Is it just a neighbor kid flying their gadget? Or in your case, is it an ex stalking you?

The Federal Aviation Administration once had a rule that all drone pilots had to register, but that was struck down in May. There is now no law requiring drone pilots to register. And even if they were required to, the database only publicly shows zip code and city of the registered pilots.  The FAA does not post the names and street addresses of registered owners because the data is exempt from disclosure under a FOIA exemption that protects information in agency files from a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: I think my ex is stalking me via drone

FPV for kids: how young is too young to fly FPV, and is FPV bad for your eyes?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about FPV for kids. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

How young can kids fly FPV? Is it bad for the eyes? I’m interested in my son, who is 10 years old, getting into flying FPV.

-Ryan

Hey Ryan,

Of course kids can fly  FPV! In fact, some of the best FPV pilots in the world are kids!

I reached to some friends who are competitive FPV champions, as well as some friends who are drone pilots and parents, to help answer your question in detail.

For starters, as FPV pilot Jessika ‘Dronehart’ points out, Ashton Gamble, who goes by the pilot name “Drobot Racer” is 11 years old, and British teen Luke Bannister was just 13 when he won the $250,000 grand prize at the inaugural World Drone Prix in Dubai.

Lorie Grabham, president of the Saguaro chapter of AUVSI, got her daughter into flying at age 10, while Amelia Droneharts founder Rhianna Lakin said her kids have been flying with her since age 5.

“FPV doesn’t have an age limit,” she said. “I think the biggest issue is they probably need mentoring.”

Razan Alzayani/Bloomberg

As far as your question about the impact on eyesight — that’s a valid concern. I reached out to Hexinair creator and champion drone racer Zoe Stumbaugh, who calls herself an ‘HMD (that’s head-mounted display) nerd’ and has taught pilots as young as 9 years old.

She said that the amount of exposure is key. Since drone racers are relatively short — under 5 minutes, that small amount of exposure doesn’t have a significant impact.

Here was Stumbaugh’s response:

“It’s pretty much all about interpupillary distance and strain using goggles. Kids aren’t fully grown and tend to have a smaller IPD that falls out of the normal range of most goggles. 63-69mm is industry standard for the most part,” she said.

“In theory long exposure to use of micro-display goggles with improper IPD could cause problems, like hours of exposure at a time over a prolonged period of time of months/years. Funny enough, using a proper IPD goggle over time could alleviate any vision issues created from improper IPD, and may be a way of treating lazy eye and a few other eye disorders.”

You may want to look into a single screen and a Fresnel lens, allowing both eyes no matter their distance to focus on a single screen. Stumbaugh recommends checking out the VR007‘s or the nicer FatShark Transformers, which have options for binocular view and monocular viewers. Bonus points: they’re cheaper than other FPV goggles!

Looking to get into drone racing? Here’s a great starter kit.

Happy flying!

 

How to change DJI drone transmission settings to increase FPV resolution

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about how to increase FPV resolution. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m trying to find a drone/camera combination that will allow me to image animal footprints on the ground from 20m altitude. To do this, I first need to be able to see the footprint trails from the air. I’ve tested some 12Mpix cameras on a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and a Mavic and they just about pick out a trail on the FPV via my iPad. I know that increasing to a model with a 20Mpix camera will improve the resolution of still images, but will it improve my ability to see the trails on the FPV?

-Zoe

Hey Zoe,

I reached out to my buddy and drone mapping professional Jon Ellinger, the creator of TLT Photography, to help me answer this one.

He says your best bet for bang for the buck would be the Phantom 4 Pro with it’s 1″ 20mp sensor, which you noted.  The bad news is, there is no reliable way to increase the resolution of the FPV beyond a few settings which you can try in the DJI Go App.
The app will enable you to increase the transmission quality; bump it up to 5.8ghz frequency which will help stream more data smoothly. However, you won’t be able to fly long distances at that frequency.
This video offers a deeper dive into those settings:

Continue reading How to change DJI drone transmission settings to increase FPV resolution

Is it illegal for a newspaper to publish drone photos without a Part 107 license?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about whether it is legal to publish drone photos. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I have a question. My husband and I have devoted time and considerable cash to starting a legal, licensed drone photography business. Our local newspaper is publishing drone photography done by another unlicensed hobby pilot. Is this not illegal?

This is an interesting question, and one we might not have the answer to unless we get more information. First off, I want to say this is not legal advice and you should always ask a lawyer, but I’ll offer my opinion.

The key question is — did money exchange hands? If yes — meaning the local newspaper paid the photographer for the aerial images that they published — then what happened here was in fact illegal.

But if no money exchange hands, then there’s nothing illegal here, as long as they follow in accordance with recreational hobby drone rules such as staying outside of the 5-mile radius of an airport and remaining within visual line of sight. Continue reading Is it illegal for a newspaper to publish drone photos without a Part 107 license?