Category Archives: Q&A

What the FAA Part 107 test is actually like (from a drone pilot who passed)

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.

Editor’s note: While Ms. Speicher is the CEO of FAA training course DARTdrones, this is not a sponsored post and this post is not intended to specifically promote or endorse DARTdronesThere are dozens of Part 107 training courses, a few of which are listed hereHowever, DARTdrones is offering a promo code to readers (noted at the end of this post).

abby Speicher dartdrones faa part 107 testHere’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.

DG: And I hear you passed! Congrats! What were the questions like? Continue reading What the FAA Part 107 test is actually like (from a drone pilot who passed)

Are you ready for the drone racing revolution? DRL’s Ben Johnson weighs in

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?

DRL’s Ben Johnson: DRL is unique in that it’s open to top pilots all around the world. Our elite pilots are incredibly diverse in background, age and geographical location – we’ve have pilots coming in from countries like Brazil, Australia, and Mexico City. Continue reading Are you ready for the drone racing revolution? DRL’s Ben Johnson weighs in

Ask Drone Girl: Where can I fly?

Got a question for Drone Girl? Ask her here!

Dear Drone Girl,

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.

Let’s tackle the second question first. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: Where can I fly?

Ask Drone Girl: I have never flown a drone before. Should I buy a Phantom 4?

Do you have a question for Drone Girl? Submit it here.

Dear Drone Girl,

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, Karen Rphantom

Hey Karen,

I had a chance to fly the Phantom 4 a couple weeks ago, and let me tell you, it’s great! It’s totally counter-intuitive to fly into an object and have it not crash, but hey, that’s what makes the Phantom 4 so fantastic. Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: I have never flown a drone before. Should I buy a Phantom 4?

5 questions with Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux

parrot ceo Henri Seydoux
Henri Seydoux

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:

parrot ceo Christian Louboutin shoes  henri seydoux
Christian Louboutin shoes at the Design Museum. Henri Seydoux is co-founder and director of the company.

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.

This is an article originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the rest of this interview here.

How to tell if you have overcharged Lipo batteries

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.

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A DJI “Smart Battery”

Whether you have a smart battery or a traditional lipo, here are 15 things you need to know about your batteries.

But one thing I still get asked: How do you tell if your batteries are overcharged?

The short answer?

Fire.

Here’s the long answer: Continue reading How to tell if you have overcharged Lipo batteries

What is the difference between drones and remote controlled aircraft?

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.

Here’s the iPhone on a Drone that won over Mark Cuban and the rest of ‘Shark Tank’

This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

How to win a huge investment on the TV show “Shark Tank”?

Try pitching Mark Cuban a “PhoneDrone,” a flying robot that operates via your smartphone. It worked for xCraft’s Charles Manning and JD Claridge, creators of the X PlusOne drone and the PhoneDrone.

The two pitched their drone startup on season seven of ABC’s DIS, -2.22% “Shark Tank,” seeking $500,000 for 20% equity in their company, which would have valued it at $2.5 million. They walked away with $1.5 million for 25% equity in a unanimous investment involving every single “Shark Tank” judge in the episode: Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec — a rare feat on the show. The “Shark Tank” investment values the company at $6 million.

SHARK TANK - "Episode 705" - In one of the most exciting moments of "Shark Tank" history, the ante is upped when the Sharks start to bid OVER the asking price for one product and the million dollar offers start to fly. But will greed burst the bubble before a deal is set? Another pitch prompts a brutal brush-off from an irate Shark. Two parents from Salem, Massachusetts pitch their novel idea for managing Trick-or-Treaters' excess candy with a children's book and gifts; two men from Pacific Palisades, California tout their premium beef jerky made from filet mignon which has the Sharks swooning over the taste and the price point; a woman from Sand City, California pitches a full-length mirror designed to build self-esteem, and two men from Sandpoint, Idaho claim they have redefined drones with inventions that fly up to 60 mph and as high as 10,000 feet. In addition, in a follow-up on the NYC-based Bantam Bagels, the company in which Lori Grenier invested last season, we see how their unique stuffed bagels fare when given a national stage, on "Shark Tank," FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 (9:00-10:01 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Beth Dubber) JD CLARIDGE, CHARLES MANNING (XCRAFT)
(ABC/Beth Dubber)

XCraft creates both the X PlusOne, a hybrid, professional-grade drone that both hovers and can fly at speeds greater than 60 miles an hour, and the PhoneDrone, a device that gives your smartphone wings, allowing it to stream video through Periscope or download it straight to the phone.

Though XCraft founder JD Claridge says he sees long-term growth in the commercial drone market, it was the consumer-targeted PhoneDrone that really won over the sharks. Claridge talked with MarketWatch about his business and what it’s like to land a deal on “Shark Tank.”

MarketWatch: Why do you think your company won on “Shark Tank”?

Claridge: Drones are hot. A lot of investors are interested in them now.

Our strategy was to show we’re more than just a product. We’re a powerful team in the founding members. I’m the nerd on the aerospace side, the inventor. I brought on Charles Manning as the business development guy — he’s the business smarts, but his background is in software. We wanted to make sure the sharks understood that.

SHARK TANK - "Episode 705" - In one of the most exciting moments of "Shark Tank" history, the ante is upped when the Sharks start to bid OVER the asking price for one product and the million dollar offers start to fly. But will greed burst the bubble before a deal is set? Another pitch prompts a brutal brush-off from an irate Shark. Two parents from Salem, Massachusetts pitch their novel idea for managing Trick-or-Treaters' excess candy with a children's book and gifts; two men from Pacific Palisades, California tout their premium beef jerky made from filet mignon which has the Sharks swooning over the taste and the price point; a woman from Sand City, California pitches a full-length mirror designed to build self-esteem, and two men from Sandpoint, Idaho claim they have redefined drones with inventions that fly up to 60 mph and as high as 10,000 feet. In addition, in a follow-up on the NYC-based Bantam Bagels, the company in which Lori Grenier invested last season, we see how their unique stuffed bagels fare when given a national stage, on "Shark Tank," FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 (9:00-10:01 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Beth Dubber) MARK CUBAN, DAYMOND JOHN
(ABC/Beth Dubber)

MarketWatch: Were you gunning for a particular shark?

Claridge: My partner and I had targeted Cuban. He was our first pick if we had a choice, just because of his connections with a lot of other companies in the tech space. Ironically he was one of the last ones to join in.

Read the rest of this story here.