Category Archives: Reviews

Book review: Read Before Flight

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The drone industry has come far in the past few years and even months. But what it still lacks? A standard set of operating procedures.

How do we train large-scale UAV teams? What risk management procedures should be established? How should we handle nighttime operations?

Nicholas Damron’s “Read Before Flight” acknowledges and provides solutions to the questions essential to a major drone operation.

Damron comes from a military background with more than eight years experience as an Active Duty and National Guard Soldier who built and managed UAS training and operational programs. He writes a book based on real experience.

Just as commercial drones grew out of military use, it only makes sense that the laws and operational procedures would grow out of the military’s use as well. Damron’s book is the first to make sense of that.

For a guidebook that’s so light (just 61 pages), its value is deep. Packed with infographics outlining everything from risk management procedures to how to fill out a flight log, this is a valuable book for commercial drone operators — and even more looking to build a large-scale team. His book is a $10 solution to the lack of training courses out there for drones.

But its not just the high-tech operations that could benefit from a bit of deep reading about drone regulation.

The book’s cover is adorned in the style of a DJI Phantom, a nod to the fact that regulations and standard procedures are not just for the military or commercial set, but the everyday pilot.

“Read Before Flight” is a set of military insights applicable to hobbyist looking to distinguish themselves as educated, judicious pilots and larger operations looking to establish professional standards within their organization.

His book is available on Amazon.com for $9.99.

*** You can win a FREE copy of this book!***

Just retweet this tweet (embedded below) and you’ll be entered into a random drawing on July 17 to win!

Drones Are Good! RT to win a copy of “Read Before Flight.”

The Winner will be contacted via Twitter Direct Message and will have up to 5 business days to respond before a new winner will be chosen.

A lineup of drones you can actually afford

This story was originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the whole story here.

The consumer drone market has exploded in the five years since French company Parrot first introduced the $299 AR.Drone. 3D Robotics, maker of the Solo drone, has raised more than $100 million in venture capital to date, while Phantom drone maker DJI is on pace to make about $1 billion in sales this year.

But Parrot has found its niche in the market — by making drones you can actually afford.

Parrot on Tuesday announced new models of drones to their MiniDrones lineup, available in stores this fall.

Parrot’s MiniDrone was announced in June.

Parrot Airborne

Parrot’s Airborne drones are 1.2-pound flying robots that can be controlled via smartphones or tablets. A vertical camera allows users to take selfies. The drone can fly up to 11 miles per hour and can turn 180 degrees in less than a second. Different models allow customers to choose a drone with LED lights that allow it to fly during the day and night ($129), or a “Cargo” drone that allows it to carry figurines ($99). Both models have a nine-minute battery life and recharge in 25 minutes.

Parrot Hydrofoil

The Hydrofoil ($179) is perhaps the most unique in Parrot’s new lineup. It does everything the Airborne drone does, but it also comes with a hydrofoil, allowing it to skim across the water. It is the first water-oriented drone in the consumer market, according to Parrot.

“You’ve never seen a toy like this,” said Parrot Chief Marketing Officer Nicolas Halftermeyer. “It took a lot of time to design and balance, but at the same time it’s maneuverable so it won’t capsize in water.”

Read the rest of the story here.

There’s an iPhone app to manage your flight logs

Photo/Hover
Photo/Hover

Mobile application Hover has been on the scene since 2014 as a “one-stop shop” drone application on the iTunes and Android app store.’

Now it’s got an update: flight logs.

“The new flight log feature automatically pulls data from your phone like location, time, and weather data,” according to a news release. “The pilot simply enters the location name, other technical flight details, and then the log is saved locally and e-mailed to the user.”

Previous versions of the free app also feature a flight readiness dashboard, real-time weather, an aggregated news feed and a no-fly zone feature.

“It’s the one stop solution for drone hobbyists,” co-founder Dan Held said. Continue reading There’s an iPhone app to manage your flight logs

Review: Think Tank Photo’s new Phantom Airport Helipak

Here is my jenny, pre-Think Tank Helipak mode of transport. Terrible!
Here is my uber low-budget, pre-Think Tank Helipak mode of cardboard. Terrible!

When it comes to transporting my DJI Phantom drone, I probably win the award for most frugal, basic option.

Yep, I still transport my drone in the original packaging it came in. Hey, it’s not a bad option! But it’s cumbersome, inefficient and one of these days, I’m sure the cardboard is going to break off.

There are a few solutions to my minor transporting disaster on the market — HPRC and GoProfessional make hard cases. GoProfessional also has a backpack option. Photographers may be familiar with the durability and quality of Think Tank Photo’s bags. And now, Think Tank Photo has added a backpack built specifically for the DJI Phantom to their inventory.

It's the size of a small person (and holds all my gear!).
It’s the size of a small person (and holds all my gear!).

At $239, Think Tank Photo’s Phantom Airport Helipak is built with the traveler in mind, providing lumbar support, an adjustable shoulder harness, and a removable padded waist belt.

It’s small enough to fit in an airplane’s overhead compartment (check with your air carrier) but definitely gargantuan enough to fit loads of gear, including your Phantom, DSLR camera,  spare lenses, a laptop and small accessories — all at the same time.

I have to say, carrying a bag that’s half my weight is certainly going to need a sturdy build with lumbar support!

But the bag itself is fairly light and not bulky considering what it’s able to carry. I would still bring this with me on a hike or day of flying at the beach in lieu of a rolling hard shell case.

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A custom divider set specifically designed for the DJI Phantom series allows you to reconfigure your bag depending on the gear.

Unlike its competitors, Continue reading Review: Think Tank Photo’s new Phantom Airport Helipak

Book review: Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them

jonathan rupprecht drone book lawWhat are drones even used for? Is this legal, what I’m doing with drones?

“Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them” is a handy primer on drone use and laws, suitable for anyone ranging from the drone novice to the drone expert seeking legal clarification.

With the media buzzing about drones and an uptick of drone users (and accidents), this book couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time (and we needed it years earlier). And it’s not just drone enthusiasts who need to read this. It should be read by ill-informed media reporters, police officers using drones, policy makers and everyone else trying to make their footprint in the drone world.

Written by Jonathan B. Rupprecht, a lawyer and a commercial pilot, the 100 page book defines nearly every facet of drone laws, serving as a handy reference guide for drone enthusiasts when faced with a legal question surrounding drones.

Despite its brevity, ‘Drones’ is still the most comprehensive and authoritative book of its kind to date, updated to reflect the  latest in drone regulation, or lack thereof.  And the brevity is the beauty here. It is clear, concise and to the point, an antithesis to the current state of drone laws. ‘Drones’ is excellently and clearly sourced to allow for further reading for the most curious minds.

Nine sections are organized according to topic, ranging from a brief overview of unmanned aircraft (that can be quickly skimmed by the more knowledgable drone enthusiasts), to must-reads for even the most knowledgeable drone enthusiast, including the FAA’s Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Future of Unmanned Aircraft.

The best owner’s manuals or guidebooks do keep the unexpected into account, which is where ‘Drones’ falls flat. While it provides exactly what a drone user expects they need, it fails to deliver the uncanny or surprising. There are no personal anecdotes, no charming highlights of creative drone use, no thought-provoking solutions to the real-world problems drone pilots are faced with.

That isn’t to say the book isn’t worth a spot on your bookshelf or Kindle. At $3.99, the book is a low-priced foot in the door to legal guidelines that even the most casual drone pilot needs to be aware of. It’s a must-read for knowing your rights when flying.

‘Drones’ is available for $3.99 via the Amazon Kindle store.

DJI’s Inspire 1 just changed the game

Just two years ago (it feels like an eternity now) I was deciding what drone to buy. I had ambitions to use drones for aerial videography in journalism — capturing stories of protests, fires or sporting events from above.

The options were limited. Like, 2 options limited. Option 1: scary alien hunk of metal flying the sky. Probably built myself. Therefore likely wouldn’t even get up in the air. Option 2: Toy drones. Shoots video that isn’t exactly broadcast quality. Is more shaky, rolling shutter than video. Probably purchased from Sharper Image (does that store still exist?)

Followers of my blog know that I bought and love my original Phantom (my avatar girl is flying a knock-off Phantom). But it also just never quite did the trick.

Enter: The Inspire 1.

DJI’s newest drone goes beyond the hobbyist market and into enterprise uses including search and rescue and humanitarian efforts. And of course, journalism.

DJI's Inspire 1

Priced at $3,399, it’s a big step above toy, but still affordable enough that small businesses could have a better shot at affording a tool that could completely change the way they operate.

“We’re taking really complex technology and now we’re making it more accessible,” DJI spokesman Michael Perry said. “Lightbridge used to be $1,000. Now it’s integrated into the system. We’ve grow  up to keep up with demand.”

DJI's Inspire 1 camera and gimbalWhat’s the big selling point for journalists? The new camera and gimbal system. Finally, the built-in camera shoots up to 4k video and captures 12 megapixel photos. This will eliminate the monotonous wide angle shots and produce broadcast quality footage. Continue reading DJI’s Inspire 1 just changed the game

5 things people think the new Inspire 1 looks like

DJI announced Wednesday their newest drone, the Inspire 1. Steering away from the charming, toyish Phantom line of drones that resemble Wall*E’s friend Eve, DJI’s newest drone means business. Here’s what you thought it looked like:

Just in time for the new Star Wars movie!

Continue reading 5 things people think the new Inspire 1 looks like

DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of

This story was originally written for Air-Vid.com. Read the entire story here.

Aerial photographer Shane Latham can tell you that. He’s the Founder of Octofilms, he’s one of 10 DJI-sponsored pilots (and the only one in the U.S.), and he’s the only pilot in the U.S. to own a DJI S900.

Latham  already has a DJI S800 EVO, S1000 and has now added the S900 to his toolkit.

“The S900 the size of the S800 but with collapsible arms,” Latham is quick to point out.

The 3.3 kg hexacopter has foldable arms and is one of the lightest and easily to transport of the expert-level drones.

“The s900 is the new generation,” said DJI’s Marketing Manager Willis Chung.

Much of the weight reduction is in the arms and landing gear, made of carbon fiber.

“You can tell the weight loss right when you pick it up,” Latham said.

Latham’s favorite aspect of the S900? The removable top.

“It’s genius,” Latham said. “The top has a star pattern plate where you remove just 5-6 without having to take apart the frame.”

The S900 features an upper center board that can be removed, making an easy way to setup the power distribution system.

“Now you can easily remove the top, get down there, make any changes you need to do then put the top back on and you’re ready to go,” Latham said. “You can see and organize all your wires.”

Some other highlights of the S900:

  • Sparkproof plug to prevent short circuits
  • 18 minute flight time
  • 8.2 kg takeoff weight
  • Zenmuse gimbal compatible

“It’s like they listened to a lot of things users were asking for,” Latham said. Continue reading DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of