Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone photography classes. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
I am photographer who is very interested in learning about drone photography. Do you know of any seminars, workshops, or classes I can take?
I’ll start by saying that the rules of photography very much apply to drone photography. Any photography tips, particularly when it comes to landscape photography apply here. That means the classic tips like rule of thirds, geometry and negative space are all worth thinking about.
Part 107 tests for commercial drone operators became available for the public to take this week. So what is the FAA Part 107 test actually like?
I have yet to take the test myself (as I still have some studying to do), but I called my friend Abby Speicher, who also happens to be the CEO and co-founder of DARTdrones, a drone training company that provides both in-person and online training for the Part 107 test.
Here’s her account of what to expect on the FAA Part 107 test:
Drone Girl: Let’s start by you walking us through what happened when you go there.
Abby Speicher: I went to a local airport, Hanscom Field in Massachusetts, which I had never been to before. I expected it to be a strict testing center. It was cool to see the private jets, and everyone at the test center was really nice. I got there at 8 a.m. on Monday, which was interesting because they said the FAA hadn’t sent them any test materials until just then (when the tests were made available) because it was so secretive.
DG: How many other people were there testing?
AS: No one else was there. They had 5 pilots testing on Monday and 30 all week. They were surprised it was that many!
DG: What was the test process like?
AS: You sign something and your driver’s license signature needs to match. Then you go to the computers. They leave you alone with the FAA testing supplement where they pull all the figures from.
You also get a pen and paper while testing, which I didn’t use, and you can bring a calculator, which I think I just used once.
You have two hours, but I was there for an hour and 10 minutes. You immediately get to see your grade and which questions you got wrong.
The following post is a guest column from Chidubem Ezinne, Software Engineer, drone enthusiast, and founder and creator of TestingAlpha. The views of guest posters belong to the author and are not necessarily reflective of TheDroneGirl.com.
This past year, the Drone Racing League has been all over the news, from ESPN to Wired. I talked with Ben Johnson, head of communications and a spokesperson for the Drone Racing League. The Drone Racing League is a premier racing league which has secured over $10 million in funding to help bring Drone Racing to the masses.
Chidubem (CJ) Ezinne: How does one become a racer in the Drone Racing League?
Perhaps you can point me to someone in San Francisco, my home town. First I’m 64 and just started flying quad copters. I’m in a public park in San Francisco flying my quad copter and get told I can’t fly there. I go online and can’t find a blog or forum to connect with other quad operators. Do you know of any active site where I can talk to other ‘flyers’? I’m not real happy since my park has zero people, tons of space and I’m not a safety hazard. Ugh!
-Seeking Out Flying space in SF
Thanks for your question — which seems to actually be twofold. The problem here is 1. you need some flying buddies, and 2. You don’t know how to approach people saying your flying is illegal, or even if it is illegal.
My question is in regards to the Phantom 4. I will be purchasing a drone and have never flown one before. The 4 sounds great but I am concerned about not being able to upgrade cameras, etc because of the design. I would like to use my investment money wisely. Do you have any input into this issue?
From founding a luxury shoe company to making drones, French businessman and Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux is a serial entrepreneur.
Seydoux founded luxury goods company Christian Louboutin — the company famous for the iconic, red-soled pumps — a 3-D imaging company, and wireless products manufacturing company Parrot which makes everything from a self-watering flower pot to the Bebop drone.
With the launch of the $549 Parrot Bebop 2, the next generation of Parrot’s Bebop drone that can stay in the air twice as long as the former version, Seydoux is inching more into the drone world. Parrot acquired commercial drone company senseFly in 2012, and launched a new lineup of $99 “MiniDrones” earlier this year to target the toy market. Parrot’s drone revenues made up 57% of the company’s revenue for the third quarter of 2015.
Seydoux offered up some advice on business, investing, drones, and his biggest money mistake:
Drone Girl: You’re well-known for founding Christian Louboutin, the company that makes the luxury, red-soled shoes. How do you go from selling shoes to selling drones?
Henri Seydoux: Shoes were a friendship. Christian Louboutin (the designer behind the company) was a friend. With drones, it’s a completely different market, but in the end, they’re consumer products. You’re selling an end-product to a user, and I’m always trying to find innovative products.
Drone Girl: [Parrot] was really the first company to manufacture consumer-oriented, ready-to-fly drones. What struck you about the idea of manufacturing drones?
Seydoux: It was really about the idea that you can turn telecoms into toys. Ten years ago it would be crazy to have a camera on a phone, and the first cameras were so bad. But now, we’re putting cameras in the sky. I’m just always looking for the craziest ideas. The thing is, for me, they’re not crazy.
Lipos (the types of batteries on most drones) are serious business. They are highly volatile, prone to damage and can cause fires. Despite highly responsible ownership, a lipo battery is still thought to be the cause of a fire that burned down an RC shop in San Diego, and numerous videos show other accidents involving lips.
Luckily, drone makers including DJI and Yuneec have recently started creating “Smart Batteries,” meaning they display remaining battery capacity. Additionally, power management is handled internally so the battery doesn’t require a separate balance lead to control charging.
What is the difference between drones and remote controlled aircraft? What is the inflection where drones have now catapulted into this new category that is causing these new regulatory hurdles?
An audience member posed the question during a town hall style session at the Drone World Expo in San Jose. Here’s the response from Gretchen West, a senior advisor with Hogan Lovells.
Gretchen West: This industry has had an identity crisis for many, many years. The term drone was used years ago by the military to talk about unsophisticated targets and has evolved into a slang word used today. Many – especially with military or government backgrounds – have fought against using the term drone to describe the technology, but “drone” is now embedded and very unlikely to change.
It’s not about the vehicle itself. It’s about how it’s used, and that’s how the regulations have been formed.
There really is no difference between a drone and a remote controlled aircraft as far as regulations go from a terminology standpoint. If you’re flying for sport, you’re classified as a hobbyist. The second you’re flying that same exact aircraft and make money off it – you’re doing cinematography, something with agriculture – that becomes a commercial operation and then it falls under the FAA bucket.
So the vehicle you’re flying or what it’s called isn’t what differentiates, it’s how you’re using it. And there is a lot of grey area between commercial and recreational use which the FAA is working to better define.
It’s an identity crisis in terminology, but it comes down to the use case.