Category Archives: Reader Submissions

Old MacDonald had a drone: the case for legalizing drones in farming

By Sacha Marie

We’ve all seen or read comparisons of drones like the Phantom 3 vs Phantom 2, arguments for GoPros vs built-in cameras, or the trending uses for drones such as wedding photography. While it’s all very much relevant, environmental uses for drones are becoming more prominent; specifically in farming.

A drone flies over vineyards of the Pape Clement castle, belonging to Bordeaux winemaker Bernard Magrez in the soutwestern French town of Pessac. JEAN PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images
A drone flies over vineyards of the Pape Clement castle, belonging to Bordeaux winemaker Bernard Magrez in the soutwestern French town of Pessac. JEAN PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images

The software

Farmers are starting to use drones for monitoring crops and using them to detect and prevent problems. Drones give farmers the ability to gain immediate knowledge about their fields, minimizing time needed to sort the problem then fix it.

Drones have become more specific to agriculture, coming with various types of sensors for temperature, plant surveillance, even water quality assessments.

What’s new?

The development for these types of drones have advanced, coming out with precision drones specifically for farming. Like their DJI counterparts, these drones will be able to be equipped with different cameras for different sensors.

The idea behind having advanced sensors is that it will give farmers the ability to increase productivity and reduce crop damage. Drones have the ability to see what farmers can’t, and they can do work at a faster rate. It also gives farmers the ability to be specific and pinpoint problems instead of having to treat the entire crop.

However recent updates will have sensors built into the drones themselves. Agricultural specific drones will also have sensors to track and keep stats on livestock, much like the drones being used to help track wildlife and prevent poaching.

The future for farmers

Agriculture is a prominent field, with technologies that are going to help make supplies more sustainable for a growing world. Drones can help give accurate results and collect data not otherwise able to collect through manual work. So, while technology is catching up to the needs of agriculture workers, the FAA rules and regulations are just barely getting there.

Commercial uses for drones in gathering information are still against the rules and regulations, unless you apply for exemptions, and even then the exemptions come with heavy guidelines. Basically, use of these types of drones is no longer ‘illegal’, but gaining an exemption is a hefty process. Unfortunately, this leaves farmers little options for using drones unless they’re approved. It’s asking our agricultural workers to put progress on hold and stay in the past.

Where do you see the future of drones in agriculture and farming going? What are your thoughts on the FAA’s stance on these drones? And how do you think it could improve?

How to find the ideal drone battery

This post was submitted by reader Kevin Skaggs on behalf of Dronefly. Got a post to submit? Contact Drone Girl here.

LiPo batteries   Flickr   Photo SharingIt’s small. It’s lightweight. It’s capable of powering the unmanned flying object for a decent amount of time. Getting ready to purchase your first drone (or upgrade to a new one)? Here are 5 tips for maximizing battery life.

● Choose the biggest battery possible that won’t weigh the drone down.

● Experiment with propeller size–if you aren’t attaching a camera, a smaller propeller is best.

● Charge the battery in the hours before you use the drone. Charging the battery days before causes rechargeable batteries to lose power.

● Avoid flying your drone in excessively windy or rainy conditions, as they cause the drone to work harder and therefore drain the battery.

● Recharge your battery in a cool environment to avoid reducing capacity. Charging it halfway is also recommended to avoid overcharging. Continue reading How to find the ideal drone battery

Will GoPro Hero 5 come with an optional drone?

This article was written for The Drone Girl by Gustavo Robledo, co-founder of Drone Examiner. Visit DroneExaminer for more. 


GoPro is expected to release its Hero 5 camera later this year with rumors of either 4K resolution or 8K with 60 frames per second, a 60mm underwater capacity, HDMI ports, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 2800 mAh lithium battery

But rumor has it GoPro will also soon announce a quadcopter drone.

The camera manufacturer has been eying the drone market for quite a while now, according to a November report in the Wall Street Journal.

This could be a good option for consumers looking to save money on a well-produced drone. While there are some drones for sale with built-in cameras from popular drone manufactures, the reality is that many professional drone pilots would rather purchase a drone compatible with GoPro cameras. But those drones tend to be more expensive and you still need to buy the GoPro separately, or in some rare cases as an additional accessory. A much better option would be to buy a GoPro Hero and a drone bundled, manufactured by the same company.

It’s also new territory for GoPro, as present drone users are mostly using cameras manufactured by other companies, many of which already come with built-in cameras.

In terms of pricing, the GoPro Hero 5 is estimated to sell for around $400-$500, but the drone and any additional accessories needed could bring the package to an estimated cost of $700-$1,000 — based on pricing for the 3DR Solo and DJI Phantom 3.

What do you think about GoPro finally aiming for the drone market? Do you think this will take business away from other drone manufacturers, or just draw more potential consumers into drones? Will the GoPro drone bring the perfect device to the hobbyist community?

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25 ways to use that drone you got for the holidays

Drones are featured in a lot of top gifts for Christmas lists. Chances are that if you are interested in cool gadgets, you probably already found one under the Christmas tree. But now that you have a drone, what can you actually do with it?

Nick from Drones Den has written a list of 25 things you can do right now with your brand new drone from home, whether it is a small Hubsan or one of those huge DJI Inspire 1 quadcopters. His website offers drones for sale and reviews of the popular drone models.

*Some of the ideas listed below are novel, whilst others have been done before. However, current FAA regulations still mean that commercial use of drones is limited.

1. Film HD Videos: New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney and London were filmed partly with drones this year, and this gave viewers an entirely new perspective which couldn’t be achieved before. Perhaps the next video going viral on YouTube could be shot by your beloved drone.


2. Take a dronie (drone selfie): As the entire family’s home for the holidays, what better time to get everyone together and take a selfie using your drone; way better than the selfie stick!

3. Race your friends: Racing drones in the Alps may not be accessible to everyone, but there’s nothing stopping you from racing your family or friends in your own backyard if you have more than one drone available.

4. Film your own stunts: Drone companies Hexo+ and AirDog are competing for the auto-follow drone market. Both companies were born on Kickstarter and have developed drones that will follow the user by honing in on their phone (Hexo+) or a special wristband (AirDog). Pair this with a GoPro and you have your own non-judging aerial camera man.


5. Become a news freelancer: Channel 5 has been using drones in their news coverage. You could always join in and be the first on the scene (without interfering with the emergency services of course) for exclusive photos and videos. Think Nightcrawler + Drones.


6. Take photos on holiday: Although it’s likely to make TSA raise some eyebrows, you can now buy special cases that protect your drone and allow you to take it with you on holiday. Imagine coming back with some amazing aerial photos from your Hawaiian holiday. It’s bound to make your friends jealous.

7. Time-lapse cinematography: Park your drone virtually anywhere and let your GoPro do the work. Then simply fly it off a few hours later and retrieve the footage (make sure you keep an eye on the battery level!).

8. Conduct Interviews: As long as you install a 2-way speaker system, you could communicate with anyone where the drone is. This could be used as a novel way to conduct interviews on the street.

9. Monitor your land and property: You really don’t need an expensive and specialised drone to monitor your property or your land. All you need is a drone that can fly for 25+ minutes with FPV streaming video such as any DJI Phantom drone, and you’re all set.

10. Watch your son’s baseball game: Too busy to attend? You can surprise them by being there ‘virtually’. Fly your drone to the field, park it and stream back to your iPad and watch live from the comfort of your own home. Continue reading 25 ways to use that drone you got for the holidays

2014 was a bad year for drone journalism. Will 2015 be better?

This post was submitted by Tim Worden, an aerial cinematographer with VerticalPrime, a Southern California-based aerial cinematography group. See his work here. Got a post to submit to Drone Girl? Contact me here.

Journalists have so far been unable to tap into the wildly successful drone industry. How that may change

-by Tim Worden

DJI S1000 octcopter. Photo by Tim Worden for Vertical Prime.

Drones have been virtually stranded at the gates of the struggling journalism industry.

It is being called tomorrow’s multi-billion dollar industry, the mechanized perfection of Da Vinci’s dreams of humans rising to the skies with applications in the lucrative agriculture, real estate and business markets.

Already, hobbyists and creative professionals have pioneered their place into this new industry of drones, those remotely-controlled civilian aircraft equipped with GoPros or other small cameras.

But while the technology is increasingly being adopted far and wide, drones, officially called unmanned aerial systems, have been virtually stranded at the gates of the struggling U.S. journalism industry.

There may be two primary parties responsible for this:

1) The journalism industry itself, for hardly attempting to adopt the cutting-edge technology and equipment, which may be seen as a lack of interest in innovating but may also be the result of slashed budgets.

2) The Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. agency responsible for regulating aircraft, for so far failing to create unified, or coherent, regulations on UAV/drone usage in the U.S. (Note that this post is referring only to the U.S.; I am unfamiliar to the state of global drone journalism.)

2014 a snooze year for drone journalism

Currently, two institutions are leading the way in drone journalism: the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Drone Journalism Lab and the University of Missouri’s Drone Journalism Program.

But they have been stifled.

Last year, the FAA sent them letters asking they essentially cease flying until they obtain a Certificate of Authentication, which places restrictions on the flight process. (Source: here and here.)

And this spring, the FAA grounded a University of Missouri journalism class for flying drones outside — although they were still allowed to fly indoors, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

The FAA is prohibiting news organizations from using drones because the agency seems to have put them in the category of for-profit, commercial operations, according to a Poynter report released in January.

Because of this, only a handful of news agencies have dabbled with the technology.

Examples include a British filmmaker using a drone to document what Chernobyl looks like nearly 30 years after the nuclear disaster for a CBS News “60 Minutes” piece and a Curbed San Francisco photographer using a drone to capture the shabby state of a neglected former football field, but it seems no news media organization that was consistently or even semi-consistently using drones as of fall 2014.

Even the San Francisco Gate, which acquired a DJI Phantom quadcopter christened Herb in the fall of 2013 to be used for reporting, seems to be no longer using it. Continue reading 2014 was a bad year for drone journalism. Will 2015 be better?