Category Archives: Q&A

Will we see drones manufactured in the U.S.?

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

Do you think we will see Drones manufactured in the U.S.? There are many fine products on the market at this time but of course we feel a loyalty to our country! I own 5 drones so far !

-Pat

Hey Pat!

You bring up a very interesting point. While I would also love to buy American-made products to support U.S. businesses, the reality is, most of the drones in the world are not made in the U.S.

There have been a number of attempts at U.S. manufactured drones, but none have succeeded. “Solo” drone maker 3D Robotics was based in Berkeley, Calif, with a large office in San Diego, Calif. (its main manufacturing plant was just across the border in Tijuana, Mexico) but it has since transitioned away from manufacturing commercial drones after laying off a number of staff. San Mateo, Calif.-based GoPro also laid off employees after recalling its Karma drone because they were falling from the sky.  Though, the Karma drone is back on the market. In January, the makers of San Francisco-based Lily, a widely-hyped drone that never actually made it to market, announced they were calling it quits and would refund those who made pre-orders.

The major companies that are left — DJI, Yuneec and Autel — are all Chinese companies, and many of the smaller drone companies are also mostly based outside of the U.S.

I discussed this phenomenon with Steve McIrvin, CEO of Autel Robotics USA. Continue reading Will we see drones manufactured in the U.S.?

Ask Drone Girl: where can I find music for my drone videos?

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

Do you have any website to refer me to for music free of copyrights to use for aerial video editing? Thank you.

-Jean Philippe

I’ve never gotten this question before. And I like it!

If you are posting your videos for the public (not just a family home video), then you need to either get the rights from the musician to use that music, or you need to use rights-free music. Any video posted to social networks like Facebook and YouTube also require you to either get permission from the artist to use their music or use rights-free music.

My favorite source of rights-free music is Free Music Archive. If the work is under a Creative Commons license, you may use the work as long as you abide by the license conditions, which are outlined below and in more detail on the Creative Commons website.

For my own Drone Girl videos, my video producer, Hamilton Nguyen, says he uses music from BenSound. They have great, simple background tracks.

Readers, where do YOU find music for your videos? Leave your tips in the comments below.

Happy flying, and happy video editing!

Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about hobby vs. commercial drone flying. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
I was thinking about taking the Part 107, but was curious if I need to. I would really only fly for fun, but I have a friend that has an non-profit charity for a children’s hospital. I was considering taking a few pictures for him as a favor during a golf outing he has each year. I would not be paid and would be doing it as a hobby for fun and giving to him for a memory.
Is there any legality issues with that. If he put them online on Facebook or something would it be a problem?
-Jeff
Hey Jeff,
This is an excellent question, and I love how you are using drones for good — for charity work in fact! What an excellent cause.
As far as using a drone for charity work without Part 107, let’s consult the FAA’s words themselves.
Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. In the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms. UAS use for hobby is a “pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” UAS use for recreation is “refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or division.”
You are certainly doing this outside of your regular occupation, and you could definitely argue that your use of a drone for charity work does qualify as refreshing of your strengths and spirits.
If you are flying for recreational purposes, make sure that you are flying in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336), which means you need to fly within visual line-of-sight, give way to manned aircraft, provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport, and register your drone with the FAA.

Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?

Where can I find drone training for structure inspections?

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

Hey Drone Girl,

I live in Sacramento, California and I am looking for some drone training for inspections of structures. Do you know where I might find this type of training? I am willing to travel to other states where good training is offered.

-Scott

Hey Scott!

This is a great question! I’m so glad you are looking to get additional training. Many people who fly drones for commercial purposes simply get their Part 107 certification and then don’t pursue other learning opportunities, despite using drones for highly technically advanced use cases.

The first thing that comes to my mind is that when you are inspecting structures, you’re probably going to incorporate thermal imaging into your flights.

From a purely theoretical point of view, I would recommend taking Brendan Stewart’s Aerial Thermography drone course. It’s an online course happening later this spring, so it’s good option for people looking ahead who want to learn from the comfort of their own couch. Sign up here. (By the way, UAV Coach offers tons of awesome great drone training courses. I used their Part 107 course and passed!)

That being said, I reached out to Brendan to give some additional background.

“Our aerial thermography course is really designed to provide the background knowledge on how thermography works, how to make sense of the infrared picture you’re seeing, and understand the process required to turn that “raw data” into usable information and added value for your client,” Steward said. “The course is designed for total beginners to thermography, who might be flying some less specialized use cases like light aerial photography and cinematography. We spend about the 1st 30% of the course on theory, understanding how to match equipment to the operation, interpret the data you receive back, and also how to deal with some of the optical illusions created by trying to navigate based on thermal imagery streamed back to your flight controls.”

As far as hands-on inspecting structures courses, it will be tougher to find a course that fits the bill. But there is good news! Continue reading Where can I find drone training for structure inspections?

Where can I hire a licensed drone pilot?

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

Dear Drone Girl,

I was wondering if you knew of any resources in terms of finding licensed UAV pilots? I am looking to hire many throughout Orange County and wanted to start collecting resources.


Yes, there are! It really depends on the scope of what you are looking for and trying to hire.

Washington D.C.-based startup Measure flies drones as a service for other businesses that need drones to conduct operations such as inspections, mapping, or shooting videos. The company recently raised $15 million in a Series B funding round. (Measure’s pilots flew more than 1,100 flights throughout 2016 — that’s about three flights a day.)

Then, there are interesting companies like Skytango, which is a sort of “Uber for Drones.” The company was originally founded by 9-time Emmy Award-winning production team Steven Flynn and Susan Talbot, who lived in the U.S. but now live in Ireland. In 2014, they built an aerial stock library to service clients that needed a single aerial clip. The company has since grown into a larger drone pilot market place for booking specific aerial photography and videography jobs with pilots worldwide. Continue reading Where can I hire a licensed drone pilot?

How can I fly a drone in a National Park?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about flying in U.S. National Parks. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Hi Drone Girl,

I had a quick question about shooting in certain areas of SF. I am trying to get some footage in the Presidio and will be renting a drone to shoot it. I noticed on some drone maps that the Presidio is off limits. Is there a workaround for shooting legally there? Is a permit necessary?

-Andy

Hey Andy,

Great question! It’s complicated. To our non-San Franciscan readers, I’ll let you know that Presidio would be the most beautiful place to photography with a drone.

But unfortunately, the short answer is no, you cannot shoot in the Presidio with a drone. Continue reading How can I fly a drone in a National Park?

DJI Mavic Pro vs. Autel X-Star Premium: which is better?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about which drone to buy for travelers. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m getting a drone. Mavic Pro or the X-Star Premium? I travel a lot and will take it with me. I am also a beginner.

I like this question! Short and to the point.  Now I’ll get to the point!

Both the DJI Mavic Pro ($999) and Autel X-Star Premium ($749) drones are excellent for beginners. They are very easy to use, allowing you to see what the drone’s camera sees in real-time through your smartphone or tablet. They have autonomous take-off and landing features and return to home, so they are both very beginner friendly.

Overall, I do think the DJI Mavic Pro is a better drone than the Autel X-Star Premium. But a lot of this comes down to your budget, and in this case you definitely get what you pay for.

If you are on more of a budget, then the X-Star is an excellent drone for $150 less than what you’ll pay for the Mavic. But if you think it is absurd to drop $1,000+ on a drone, then stop reading right now and just get the Autel X-Star! It is a great drone! Continue reading DJI Mavic Pro vs. Autel X-Star Premium: which is better?

Why is my drone’s LCD so dark? And what is DJI CrystalSky?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone LCD brightness and DJI’s CrystalSky monitor. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Hey Drone Girl,

I am new to the drone world. I am hoping to incorporate the aerial photography into my roofing consulting business. I purchased a DJI Phantom 3 Professional and love its user-friendliness; however, I cannot seem to get a clear view of what the camera is viewing. It is taking video and stills but the view is dark. I have adjusted the brightness up all the way to no avail. I have tried using my iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy and iPad, and the results are the same. I have tried using a glare shield, which is a slight help. I was wondering if I need to purchase those goggles I see others using? Maybe I should put my head into a pillow case or box? 

-Bill

Hey Bill,

No need to put your head in a pillow case! But you’re right; drone LCDs with low brightness are a serious issue.

Such a serious issue, that in fact, DJI announced at CES 2017 a prototype for a new product called CrystalSky, a monitor with an ultra-bright screen designed to be clearly visible in sunlight. With 2000 cd/m² of brightness, it’s more than four times as bright as most mobile devices. The monitor is designed to function with a range of DJI’s drones, including the Inspire 2 and Inspire 1 series, Phantom 4 series, Matrice series and the Phantom 3 Professional, which you have.

It is expected to be released later this year, which unfortunately means you can’t use it now.

That being said, there are some other alternatives: Continue reading Why is my drone’s LCD so dark? And what is DJI CrystalSky?