Category Archives: Q&A

Ask Drone Girl: which drones can fly indoors AND do heavy lifting?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drones that can both fly in doors and carry a relatively heavy payload. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

We are looking drones that can carry 5 kilograms of weight for indoor applications where the max flying height of 5 meters. What would you recommend?

It turns out, you don’t need a complicated, custom solution. DJI actually makes a product you may be able to use — the DJI Matrice 100.

I chatted with Will Stavanja, the founder of Wilstair — a North Carolina-based company that provides commercial aerial robotics systems integration. . His past life is pretty interesting — with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanial Aerospace Engineering, he co-led an Urban High Rise Rescue educational project for Boeing to develop a drone concept model that could be used to rescue people from burning high-rise buildings.  He said he uses a DJI M100 or custom 525mm + 8 configuration for indoor operations that require large drones. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: which drones can fly indoors AND do heavy lifting?

Ask Drone Girl: where can I get an off-the-shelf, photogrammetric calibrated drone camera?

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

I’m looking for commercial off the shelf, photogrammetric calibrated drone cameras. The only ones I have found are the Phase One cameras. Are you aware of any others?

You stumped me on this one, so I reached out to my friend, Patrick Stuart, who is the ‎Senior Director of Product, Web and Mobile at Skycatch, a San Francisco-based startup that uses software to make commercial drone maps and models processed in the cloud for construction, mining and energy. Here’s what he told me:

“It all depends on the use-case,” he said. “If you need to do millimeter-resolution 3D mesh then, yes, perhaps this would be necessary. For example, you may need to get a 100000% “perfect” 3D mesh of a large statue or something.”

A Phase One camera is going to run you thousands of dollars. If you don’t need THAT much precision, there are cheaper options. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: where can I get an off-the-shelf, photogrammetric calibrated drone camera?

So what airspace CAN I fly in while using a drone in San Francisco?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about finding where you can legally fly your drone — specifically in San Francisco. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m going to San Francisco for a wedding at the end of May. I wanted to bring my drone and capture some shots of such a beautiful city. However, it seems like just about everything is restricted. Can you recommend some good safe places to fly out there? I’d hate to bring it all the way out there just to find out I can’t fly it anywhere.

-Dan

Hey Dan,

Welcome in advance to San Francisco, and I’m thrilled to hear you want to take pictures of the beautiful city that I live in.

You are right — a LOT of places that our totally incredible also fall in restricted airspace. Most of the beach area on the western side of the city is part of a National Park, as well as the Presidio and Alcatraz. Then, you’ve got the airport down in the southern part of the city which prevents you from flying, as well as Oakland airport on the opposite side of the bay should you want to fly there. Continue reading So what airspace CAN I fly in while using a drone in San Francisco?

Ask Drone Girl: How to become an “expert” in the drone industry

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about achieving “expert” level in drones. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I am in the process of getting my Part 107 and getting jobs as a drone service provider.  I am trying to build up my drone flying experience and  am curious what you would say is the average number of flight hours you need to considered an experienced UAV pilot? Also how much for an expert? I know I need to build up my experience, I am just curious what would be a hour level I need to build it up to.

“Ask Drone Girl” is beginning to reach a deeper, philosophical level! What really is an “expert?” Is it someone who makes a lot of money at their job? Is it someone who carries a lot of influence? Is it someone who never makes mistakes? It’s all quite subjective.

But you asked for an hour level, which is less subjective. I’ve taught dozens and dozens of people to fly over the years, and — this is not the answer you want to hear — but it varies greatly. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: How to become an “expert” in the drone industry

Ask Drone Girl: starting a drone small business

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

I’m currently in the cell phone industry and want to go into the drone business. I am wondering what is a good drone to start a drone business with? And what would someone be looking at revenue wise? And do you think the drone business for people with their own drones and drone businesses will grow or get smaller? 

Hey there,

Congrats on the career switch! There’s a lot to unpack here. First off, to acknowledge your background in the cell phone industry, it’s great you already have experience in a field. My mind is immediately jumping to cell tower inspections. Given your experience in the industry already, you may have contacts in those areas which gives you a huge head start.

To your first question about what drone to buy: the great news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money on drone gear to have a successful business. 84% of drone mapping and modeling is occurring on drone models that cost $1500 or less, according to a report by drone mapping software company DroneDeploy. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: starting a drone small business

Ask Drone Girl: is there any visual observer training for drone operations?

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

I’m currently doing work for a non-profit and just got my part 107 license. I’d like to train a client at my non-profit as a visual observer. While I can tell them to watch and make sure I don’t bump into stuff, I was wondering if there was anything more that could be done – a small training or something that you’ve heard of to prepare a visual observer to help a pilot?

Hey there,

You’re right, honestly a visual observer chalks down to making sure you don’t bump into stuff. My visual observer has also served highly useful in deflecting conversations with the general public! A lot of people approach me as I’m flying and want to ask about what I’m doing, but I don’t really want to think about talking to people when I’m focused on flying!

That being said, it is important your visual observer has an understanding of the operation beyond just “watch out for that tree.”

First off, they need to follow the FAA’s rules under 14 CFR 107.33. That means they must: maintain effective communication with the person manipulating the flight controls and remote pilot in command at all times, they must ensure the visual observer can see the unmanned aircraft, they must scan the airspace where the drone is operation and they must maintain awareness of the position of the drone at all times.

Of course, they must also adhere to the FAA’s rules around alcohol and drugs — no operating an aircraft within 9 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage. (No drinking and droning!)

I would recommend they go through the FAA’s free Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) course. Going through this course is actually a requirement for existing Part 61 pilots (people who already have a manned pilot’s license).

The course takes about two hours to complete and is free as a self-study tool to the general public. There’s a free practice test at the end. It will go through basic rules, operating procedures and safety.

If they decide they want to take the full Part 107 test, that’s great too! Check out my guide to how I studied for and passed the test.

Happy flying!

How to learn mapping and agriculture for drones

I’m interested in breaking into agriculture and mapping. I think what I need the most is some training so that I know what I’m talking about when looking for clientele. Do you have any suggestions?

Yes, I know exactly what you need. I highly recommend Icarus Aerials’ Lewis Butler and Trevor Duke’s online course on mapping and 3D modelling.

The course goes over a variety of topics – photogrammetry, structure scanning, hardware, software and more. It primarily discusses using Drone Deploy, though I personally have had success with Skycatch’s software, which is similar to Drone Deploy.

It’s a self-paced online course so you can do it on your own time – and there’s lifetime access in case you need a lot of time. The course, called Mapping and 3D Modeling 101 costs $199. Continue reading How to learn mapping and agriculture for drones

Ask Drone Girl: getting a job in drones

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

Hello!

I am retired from the US Army and back in College. I am wanting to get into a engineering field that would be best for working with drones. What would you suggest? San Diego City College has a AA in Electronics. They also have the first 2 years of electrical engineering or mechanical engineering degrees with a transfer to San Diego State University. Do you have any suggestions on what’s best to study to get into the drone field? Thanks!

Thank you for your service, and welcome to the drone world! The tough thing in the drone industry is there is no “set path” to succeed. The great thing about the drone industry is there is no “set path” to succeed.

I’ll let you know my story. I got into drones by accident. I was a college student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in both German and Journalism, with a minor in multicultural studies. I needed one credit to graduate and the only thing that really fit in my schedule was a course on drones, so I signed up and of course, fell in love! Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: getting a job in drones