Category Archives: Reader Submissions

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?

A waterfall flight with a not-so-happy-ending

Remember earlier this week when I showed you the video of the slack liners? How I asked about how terrifying flying over water can be, as you risk losing your drone?

Whelp, I got a brave reader submission willing to share his video. The intro is beautifully shot, both in terms of ground and drone footage. Let’s just say, the ending is not-so-happy. *Spoiler alert: it ends up in the Nile.

The pilot, Petr Jan Juračka, built the drone, a 3DR ArduCopter Quad C Frame, and took it to Arru Falls in Uganda.

“After our escapade at the falls, we visited the second-largest waterfall in Africa, Murchison Falls,” he wrote. “One of the rotors on our drone unexpectedly shut down at 150s altitude, and we are sorry to say the quadcopter now rests at the bottom of the Nile among the skeletons of hippos and crocodiles.”

Sorry to hear about the rotor malfunction. You’re probably not alone though (the other voters will tell you that).

Thanks Petr Jan Juračka for the submission!


Why it’s okay to say ‘drones’ (seriously, that’s what they’re called)

The following piece is an excerpt from a story written by Andrew Chapman, CEO of Skymount, a Vancouver-based company  that provides civilian aerial drone services. Chapman chatted with me as well as a few others in the drone space, including Mike Winn of San Francisco-based Drone Deploy. Read the full story here.

Within some parts of the industry there is a strange aversion to the word ‘drone’, and a great deal of effort is being spent in trying to install some other label in its place.

Even if we all agreed it was a good idea to change from drone to another name and went to great expense launching a worldwide marketing blitz to advertise it, at best we could succeed only in changing the terminology within our industry while the rest of the world continues calling them drones. It is a futile exercise.

For better or worse there is no central arbiter of the english language, it is an organic and evolving beast, a product of the constant flow of media and literature references running through our society. Our industry itself is a tiny, tiny dot within the maelstrom of media discussions and debate around the uses and impacts of this technology for humanity, and no amount of drum beating will convince the much larger majority to stop using a word that they’re perfectly happy with.

Google can also help to show us what images are associated with these terms. When we do an image search for ‘drone’ the results are a fairly balanced mix of military and civilian examples (slightly more commercial than military):


However, when we search for ‘UAV’ and ‘UAS’ the images returned are almost entirely military:



The story continues on

The Wild West: the time has come to adopt UAV safety systems

Bundeswehr Holds Media DayThis post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Drone Girl. Got a news tip, commentary or are otherwise interested in working with Drone Girl? Contact us here!

The following post is a guest piece by Davis Hunt, the Owner of ViewPoint Aviation, a company focused on UAS’s. Davis has 20+ years experience in commercial aviation and the UAS sphere. ViewPoint Aviation is eagerly working within the UAS community to safely and efficiently integrate drones into the NAS.

The emergence of the UAS industry (non-defense specific) represents a landmark moment in aviation history. The UAS industry will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and create technologically innovative solutions for a variety of industries.

Even with the unbound potential of the unmanned marketplace, the UAS industry has to overcome two perceptions that have been established by media reporting to date: drones as a weapon and drones are for spying. As a commercial operator, these are biases that I encounter literally every day, and do my best to overcome.

In the process of overcoming these perceptions, we are literally in the midst of the “wild west” mindset of an industry. With the Pirker case headed for the Court of Appeals, and realistically, any non-binding cease and desist letter from the FAA not providing actual deterrent, everyone feels equal footing in UAS operation. Continue reading The Wild West: the time has come to adopt UAV safety systems

Second-take: Recent drone near-miss adds weight to justification for UAV rules

A past Drone Girl article discussed the Florida “Near-miss” drone accident, in which the FAA revealed that a drone may have collided with a US Airways airplane in Tallahassee, Fla. Now, Brock Christoval, Founder of Flyspan Systems who also sits on an FAA advisory board is offering a different opinion on the matter. Here’s his take:

F-4 Phantom Model UAV

The recent near mid air collision near the Tallahassee airport is a cause for concern. It adds weight to the justification for having rules to operate UAV’s.

The main concern from the recent incident is that that drone was in close proximity to the commercial aircraft. The commercial pilot reported of a UAV that was shaped like an F-4 Phantom. The maximum gross take off weight for this type of UAV is around 40 lbs. That’s roughly the size of a very large bird. Amateur model pilots most often use this type of aircraft and it most likely had a small turbine for its propulsion. An aircraft that size could easily take out an engine on a large commercial aircraft. Continue reading Second-take: Recent drone near-miss adds weight to justification for UAV rules