Category Archives: Reviews

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 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

Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

Photo courtesy Skysense

Andrea Puiatti knows a problem when he sees one. And it only took him 6 months to come up with a solution that could further disrupt an industry you thought couldn’t get any more revolutionary.

Puiatti is the CEO of Skysense, a company that creates portable charging pads that automatically charge your drone, no humans to plug it in required.

Here’s how it works: Your drone flies miles away from you. The battery has probably lasted 20 minutes — 30 minutes on a good day. Your drone autonomously lands — but not just anywhere — on a portable landing pad no more than the size of a bath mat, which you’ve set up ahead of time. Wires connected to the drone touch the pad, and through direct contact, the batteries on the drone immediately start charging. Once charged, the drone takes off and resumes the mission you’ve programmed for it.

“This solves two problems,” Puiatti said. “The first, it enables you to manage the operation remotely. Second, you can have a drone that takes off at any time without human intervention to change the battery, thus enabling fully autonomous missions.”

Andrea says the charging is just as efficient as if you were to plug the battery charger in the socket wall.

The product would enable a drone to have full automation, particularly useful in cases such as inspection, security and agriculture, and it has a retail price between $1000-1500 dollars. Continue reading Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

Phantom 2 Vision+ is the most killer drone out there

Photo courtesy of Rhett Lewis, Atomic City Films
Photo courtesy of Rhett Lewis, Atomic City Film.

I spent this past weekend at Cine Gear Expo LA at Paramount Studios with some really talented filmmakers, primarily hanging out at the CopterShop and DJI tent (oh, also the In-N-Out truck), working with a ton of filmmakers on integrating drones into their tool bag of camera equipment.

If you didn’t get to spend your weekend surrounded by Phantom 2 Vision +’s like I did, or never have in your life, you are missing out. Because what are we recommending filmmakers use? This guy! The Phantom 2 Vision +! And I can say, spending an entire weekend with the Phantom 2 Vision + has me hooked.

I bought my Phantom 1 about this time last year, and I have so many regrets not waiting for this one! It’s everything you could want, ready to go in one piece. Gimbal? Check. HD camera? Check. Adorable design? Check.

It turns out my friends and really talented film producers Rhett and Burke Lewis at Atomic City Film use a Phantom themselves. In fact, here’s a promo video they made of the Phantom.

Advice: skip the Phantom 1. You’ll have to mess around with adding on a gimbal and FPV (first-person view,where you can see exactly what the camera is seeing, live) yourself. This all -in-one package is reasonably priced considering how much it would cost to buy each of these items on its own.

The Phantom 2 Vision + is on sale for $1299 at CopterShop right now — check it out for yourself!

Okay, disclaimer, if you’re trying to shoot Skyfall or the Smurfs 2, maybe you want to go with something a little more professional (that can hold a dSLR or RED Epic). But if you’re on a budget, this drone is your best friend.

So it’s safe to say this is on my Christmas-in-July wishlist this year.

Can Amazon drones actually deliver packages? 4 questions, 4 experts.

Amazon drones could be flying through the sky delivering your purchases in fewer than 30 minutes, according to an announcement CEO Jeff Bezos made in November.

It drew skeptics and supporters, questions and complaints. What do the experts say?

Rajapack spoke to four experts in the drone industry to get insight into whether or not the Amazon is feasible. Here’s an excerpt of their story:

01Dr. Arthur Richards – Senior lecturer in Dynamics & Control at the University of Bristol and member of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory

Q: What are the technological challenges facing the introduction of drones to this sector? What challenges will the drones themselves face during delivery?

A: The drones will need to handle wind, rain, snow, ice, curious birds or even ambitious thieves.  Solutions to many of those challenges exist in the lab, but integrating them into one robust product won’t be easy or cheap.  Proving the safety of that integrated system will be extremely tough.  Scaling the capability up to large numbers will be even tougher. Continue reading Can Amazon drones actually deliver packages? 4 questions, 4 experts.

The 6 cutest little mini-drones you’ll ever see

6. Syma X1 4 Channel 2.4G RC Quad Copter – BumbleBee

61a9QRW7Y7L._SL1500_It’s a big kid toy, and its 3-axis flight control system allows this guy to flip, roll and more. This Bumblebee copter can fly indoors and outdoors. The cheapest drone on this list, it’ll run you $34.45 on Amazon.

5. AeroVironment Nano Hummingbird


This drone is aesthetically beautiful, and it also has some REALLY powerful technology. Unlike all the other drones on the list, this one is not a consumer drone, but rather a spy drone developed as a military prototype.  It looks too real — and out of this world.

4. The drone from Flubber.flubber1997m720phdtvx26

Not for sale. Not any less cute. Probably THE cutest. Continue reading The 6 cutest little mini-drones you’ll ever see