Category Archives: Reader Submissions

7 steps every beginner drone pilot should take to become a pro

The following is a guest post by Michael Karp, author of the blog Drone Business Marketer.

The FAA predicts that hobbyist drone sales will increase from 1.9 million in 2016 to 4.3 million in 2020. With that many novice pilots flying around, it’s imperative they learn how to fly safely.

Here are the 7 steps new pilots should follow in order to become a proficient drone flyer: Continue reading 7 steps every beginner drone pilot should take to become a pro

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Still haven’t taken the FAA Part 107 test?

Drone operators with existing Part 61 pilot certificates can bypass the in-person, written exam and instead take an online course. But for drone operators without that, they’ll have to take the test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.

And that test is definitely something you’ll need to study for.tav coach drone pilot ground school

My friends at UAV Coach’s Drone Pilot Ground School, which I happen to be using myself, are offering $50 off their online training course. For a one-time fee of $299 (or $249 using this link) you will get access to 30+ lectures, practice quizzes, and five different practice tests.

Simply use this link for the savings to automatically be added, or use Drone Pilot Ground School coupon code DRONEGIRL50. Continue reading Drone Pilot Ground School: save $50 using coupon code DroneGirl50

How the U.S. offshore wind energy industry could benefit from drones

The following post was contributed by Todd Sumner. Todd is is an attorney and legislative affairs advocate representing clients on a wide range of environmental, renewable energy, unmanned systems technologies and regulatory matters. He can be reached at

2016 has so far been quite remarkable for both the U.S. offshore wind energy industry and the drone industry. Deepwater Wind  this month made history by completing construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, marking the beginning of a new era for American offshore wind energy.

And this week, Part 107, the  much-awaited Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) final rules allowing for greater integration of non-recreational operations of small unmanned aerial vehicles into the National Airspace System (NAS) become effective, further expanding the UAS industry for the economic benefit of numerous existing businesses and other industries, including the fledgling U.S. offshore wind energy industry.

Massive growth in wind energy

The overall U.S. wind energy industry is growing: the cost of wind power has declined over the past several years,the recent extension of the wind energy production tax credit is providing a strong degree of regulatory certainty for the industry, and more efficient construction methods have made wind power today more viable in the power sector than ever before.

High profile corporate entities are unilaterally pursuing their own power purchase agreements of wind and other renewable energy sources and there has been an increase in utilities seeking to invest in wind energy developments. States including California, Hawaii and New York are modifying their renewable portfolio standards.  Massachusetts has a new law that calls for the use of 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy within the next decade. The U.S. Department of Energy is setting up for the provision of research funding off the coasts of New Jersey, Maine and a freshwater wind farm in Lake Erie. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) awarded 11 commercial leases off the Atlantic coast and announced in August a proposed sale notice and request for interest for commercial leasing for wind power offshore of North Carolina and announced in June a proposal to undertake a competitive lease sale offshore of New York. BOEM has received unsolicited lease requests for floating wind farm projects in the Pacific.

With Deepwater Wind’s Block Island project now fully constructed, the U.S. offshore wind energy industry’s horizon is bright as it has finally demonstrated itself and is ready to grow and adapt to address any challenges this nascent industry may face going forward.

A drone flies over the waters of Congaree River in Columbia in South Carolina on October 5, 2015. Relentless rain left large areas of the US southeast under water. The states of North and South Carolina have been particularly hard hit, but the driving rain in recent days has spared almost none of the US East Coast.  AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Part 107 clears drones for takeoff

Part 107 now removes strict requirements around commercial drone operation, primarily that the operator  had to have a manned aircraft pilot license — an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

Pilots can now operate commercially by passing an aeronautical knowledge exam at an approved FAA testing center or hold an existing part 61 pilot certificate and complete a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

While the FAA rule opens up tremendous commercial drone opportunities that could further generate job creation and economic impact, there are however, operational limitations that need to be carefully observed in order to comply with the new small UAS rule.

Key limitations include that the drone , including its payload must weigh less than 55 lbs, it must be operated within the visual line-of-sight (VLOS) of the remote pilot in command, and that it may not operate over anyone not directly participating in the operation. Drones can only be operated in daylight or civil twilight with appropriate anti-collision lighting, and cannot go faster than 100 mph, while remaining no higher than 400 feet above ground level (AGL), or if higher than 400 feet, within 400 feet of a structure.

part 107 commercial droneHow drones can help the U.S. offshore wind energy industry forge ahead

One of the core benefits of drones is they are  safer to operate and more economical and efficient than traditional manned vehicles. Drones dramatically mitigate human safety risk since no one is actually on board and are more portable, allowing for more timely and inexpensive deployment in unsafe conditions or emergency situations.

Drones are already being utilized in industries including fire management, real estate services, inspections, construction, mining, precision agriculture, and law enforcement operations.

The U.S. offshore wind energy industry is taking its very first step and going forward will be well positioned to take advantage of drone technology and the endless applications that can help reduce the installation costs of offshore wind development projects. From pre-construction surveys, minimizing risk liability for compliance with the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act to post-construction operation and maintenance inspections, the incorporation of drones will allow for a safer, more efficient undertaking of activities and tasks to help protect a project’s bottom line and ultimately the marketability of its wind energy product.

For example, drones can be deployed to assist in various pre-construction surveys (seasonal wildlife utilization) of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) blocks for a proposed leasing area.  They can help avoid impacts to the endangered species by helping to detect listed species such as the North Atlantic right whale and then coordinate vessel avoidance measures.

In terms of  nighttime vessel operations (presuming you have been issued an FAA certificate of waiver for small UAS operations at night), drones can be equipped with a thermal imaging sensor to detect heat signatures (whales and other species) at the water surface.

UAS technology can also benefit offshore wind development in other new ways. During construction, cameras on drones can  zoom in or zoom out monitoring of construction activities in real time — useful for better coordination of construction task sequencing, identifying potential flaws in construction materials, and better assessing safety conditions for construction workers. As far as operation and maintenance, drones already have a positive track record for conducting inspections of land-based critical infrastructure including railroads, pipelines, bridges, cell towers and on-shore wind farms, allowing a more efficient and strategic assessment of operation and maintenance needs without risking human safety.

That same efficiency can easily be captured and applied to the up and coming U.S. offshore wind energy projects. The U.S. offshore wind energy industry has spread its wings to take flight and with its growing UAS Industry contemporary will soar to the greatest heights.

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 ImproDrone. The views of guest posters belong to the author and are not necessarily reflective of

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

The FAA: “First Person View is prohibited” (sort of)

The following post is a guest column from Matthew Brown,  an engineer, licensed attorney, drone enthusiast, and founder and creator of US Drone Law. The views of guest posters belong to the author and are not necessarily reflective of

Is FPV drone racing legal?

The 2016 National Drone Racing Championships on Governors Island are just days away. For the first time, ESPN will bring live drone racing to millions of viewers. Race sponsors include heavy hitting multinational companies such as camera company GoPro, technology company EMC, insurance company AIG, and financial services company Ernst & Young.

Much of the appeal for drone racing comes from the sport’s pod-racing feel. Pilots orient and control their drones remotely by viewing a live video feed from the drone’s cockpit-mounted camera. This unique flight perspective, known as first person view (FPV), provides an exhilarating racing and spectator experience.

One of the keystone rules for drone racing is that “[p]ilots must use FPV to pilot aircraft.” While using first person view, a pilot cannot simultaneously keep the drone in his or her visual line of sight.

With the biggest FPV drone racing event just around the corner, one question lingers: Is FPV drone racing legal? Continue reading The FAA: “First Person View is prohibited” (sort of)

Need FAA Part 107 UAS test prep? DART drones offers courses

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Looking for a training course to help you prepare for the Part 107 Aeronautical Knowledge Exam?

Drone training company DARTdrones now offers an in-person, UAS ground school designed to prepare UAS pilots to pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, which is soon to be required by the FAA in order for pilots to fly drones commercially.

The Boston-based startup travels around the nation providing training to individuals and corporate clients, including AutoDesk and HBO.

Continue reading Need FAA Part 107 UAS test prep? DART drones offers courses

AUVSI to talk investing in drones

Money is pouring into drone startups. According to a report by CB Insights, drone startups raised over $450 million in equity financing across 74 deals in 2015, up a whopping 300 percent over 2014 in terms of dollars.

2015 was the first year where commercial operators were really able to get started by using Section 333 exemptions, and the investment seemed to follow; on a funding basis, investment hit an all-time high in the third quarter, at $140 million.

The funding was led by $75 million in Series B financing by Accel Partners to China-based Dajiang Innovation Technology Co., better known as DJI, the largest consumer drone manufacturer in the world with reported $120 million in net profit in 2014. Close behind was rival Yuneeq with $60 million and 3D Robotics with $50 million.

The money isn’t just going to hardware makers. Between 2012 and mid-2015, according to CB Insights, 42 percent of the funded startups focused on software and services, with 40 percent focusing on hardware. Continue reading AUVSI to talk investing in drones

Mountain Dew bets on drone racing

PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew has always had a strong presence in sports-related advertising. It’s a brand that targets sports and athletes that represent a certain lifestyle and attitude. It’s a  brand synonymous with the extreme.

Now, however, Mountain Dew is pushing past established sports, instead boldly embracing the rising sport of drone racing with the announcement that it will sponsor a one-hour racing special this August. Called the “DR1 Invitational,” this special will air on the Discovery Channel and Science Channel, and will showcase 12 of the world’s best drone racing pilots (with Mountain Dew specifically sponsoring Tommy “UmmaGawd” Tibajia).

The races will be held at the Sepulveda Dam in Los Angeles, with the pilots situated atop the dam, and will consist of several different rounds of competition. Continue reading Mountain Dew bets on drone racing