770,000 drones have been registered with the FAA so far

Drones have come a long way in the past few years — and even months. Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta gave a “State of the industry” speech to provide updates on the FAA’s outlook on drones during a speech today at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium in Reston, VA.

“We’re ushering in a new age of American aviation: the unmanned aircraft era,” Huerta said in a prepared statement. “And it’s moving at a quicker pace than anything we’ve seen before.”

Here are some quick facts about the drone industry:

  • 770,000 drone registrations have been received in a little over 15 months
  • The B4UFly app, which the FAA created to let people know where it’s safe and legal to fly a drone, has been downloaded more than 200,000 times
  • As of March 21, the FAA had issued 37,579 remote pilot certificates

Huerta said the FAA is now ramping up to make the enormous amount of drones in the skies safer, as well as they are working on expanding operations so that unmanned aircraft can be flown over people, and beyond visual line of sight.

The FAA has now formed two groups —  the Drone Advisory Committee, and the Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team. It also recently launched an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to help create standards for remotely identifying and tracking unmanned aircraft during operations.

Meet “Lone Drone” creator Vanessa Elliott

Many filmmakers make movies with a drone. Filmmaker Vanessa Elliott is making a film starring a drone.

Elliott is a California-based filmmaker, who has worked on projects including projects for Vice Media, the short film “Share” by Pippa Biano, a Netflix documentary in post production called “Mortified Guide”, and has even starred as an actress with Disney. She studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned her B.A. in Film & Media.  Now, she’s breaking out into the drone world with a film project that stars a drone as the main character. It’s called “The Lone Drone.”

Drone Girl: What’s your film about?

Vanessa Elliott: “The Lone Drone” is set in the not-so-distant future when drones are more common and prevalent in daily life. It follows a drone that lives in a house with a family and helps with household chores. One day it is faced with a morally questionable option from its master. The drone gets confused and ultimately escapes the situation completely. As it gets further away of its human masters, it becomes self-aware. It is taken to a wild western landscape that it has never been to; it only knows the house it lives in and city life. This landscape is detailed, colorful, there are wind storms. It discovers its freedom.

This inventive, desert girl ends up finding it trapped, and she is immediately put off by it because she hasn’t been exposed to drones. As she gets to know it, like a kid playing with a balloon for the first time, she thinks it’s wonderful and is mesmerized by it.

The two mirror each other in that they are both lonely and breaking out of their own limited environments. It’s a story of how they find harmony between human beings and possession.

vanessa elliott lone drone
Photo by Kat Nebrida

DG: I know you just got a DJI Mavic — congrats! Will the Mavic play a starring role in the film?

VE: I would like to create a custom drone for the project — I have designs laid out. My plan is to work with someone who can help me build out the drone from scratch.

DG: And then I’m guessing the film will have plenty of drone shots.

VE: Absolutely there will be drone shots in the film. We’ll have multiple drones on set. There will be the “hero” drone. We’ll always have that drone filming for that over-the-shoulder view. Then we’ll have a drone following the “hero” drone, there will pretty much always be at least two drones in the air. Continue reading Meet “Lone Drone” creator Vanessa Elliott

How to learn mapping and agriculture for drones

I’m interested in breaking into agriculture and mapping. I think what I need the most is some training so that I know what I’m talking about when looking for clientele. Do you have any suggestions?

Yes, I know exactly what you need. I highly recommend Icarus Aerials’ Lewis Butler and Trevor Duke’s online course on mapping and 3D modelling.

The course goes over a variety of topics – photogrammetry, structure scanning, hardware, software and more. It primarily discusses using Drone Deploy, though I personally have had success with Skycatch’s software, which is similar to Drone Deploy.

It’s a self-paced online course so you can do it on your own time – and there’s lifetime access in case you need a lot of time. The course, called Mapping and 3D Modeling 101 costs $199. Continue reading How to learn mapping and agriculture for drones

Ask Drone Girl: getting a job in drones

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about getting a job in drones. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.


I am retired from the US Army and back in College. I am wanting to get into a engineering field that would be best for working with drones. What would you suggest? San Diego City College has a AA in Electronics. They also have the first 2 years of electrical engineering or mechanical engineering degrees with a transfer to San Diego State University. Do you have any suggestions on what’s best to study to get into the drone field? Thanks!

Thank you for your service, and welcome to the drone world! The tough thing in the drone industry is there is no “set path” to succeed. The great thing about the drone industry is there is no “set path” to succeed.

I’ll let you know my story. I got into drones by accident. I was a college student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in both German and Journalism, with a minor in multicultural studies. I needed one credit to graduate and the only thing that really fit in my schedule was a course on drones, so I signed up and of course, fell in love! Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: getting a job in drones

FAA Remote Pilot Certifications: here’s the database to search Part 107-certified pilots

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about the FAA Part 107 Certified Remote Pilot database. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Does the FAA have a website where you can see if a drone operator has a license to fly commercially? 


Hello, Dave!

The short answer is yes! You can browse the FAA’s public registry of Part 107-certifed remote pilots here.

In order to browse the database, you will have to start by submitting information about yourself, including your name and address. From there, you can browse all airmen (okay, how about airwomen?!), whether they are manned or remote pilots.  You’ll be able to see each pilot’s certificate and their rating (including that of yours truly).

If you’re hiring someone to do commercial drone work for you, this is a great place to check if that drone pilot is actually certified.

As of March 21, the FAA had issued 37,579 remote pilot certificates, according to an FAA spokesperson.

And if you’re a drone owner who flies commercially but is not yet Part 107-certified, save yourself the embarrassment of not showing up in this database by taking the Part 107 test. I promise, it’s not as hard as it may seem, even if you don’t have a background in aviation. (Here’s my guide and video to taking the Part 107 test, which is a 60-question written test that takes up to 2 hours. If you don’t have a background in aviation, you’ll certainly need to devote a few evenings to studying, but it’s not something you can’t do.

Note that not all pilots who have certificates may show up in your database search. Pilots do have 90 days to opt-out of having their address posted so there is a significant lag in posting, and someone’s legal name may not be the name you know then as when you search them.

Looking for study resources to ensure you pass? I used Drone Pilot Ground School and passed on the first try. I also recommend UAV Ground School — you can save $25 with coupon code DRONEGIRL. 

Happy flying, and happy test-taking!

Star Wars drone review: Propel’s collectible $200 battle drones

For those of you Star Wars nerds out there, there’s a drone for you too.

Propel’s new line of Star Wars battle drones are essentially a basic 4-ounce toy drone that is operated via remote controller — but there’s a whole lot more to it than justthat. These highly-deta iled, hand-painted (and very pricey) drones are a perfect gift for the Star Wars fan in your life, and an incredible keepsake item for the collectors in your life.

The drones cost $199 each and come in three different designs, the 74-Z Speeder Bike, the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter and the Tie Advanced X1.

propel star wars drone battleStar Wars drone review: The packaging

I had so much fun simply opening my drone from its box, which was the Tie Advanced X1. Each drone arrives in a wax-sealed box that, much to my surprise, actually plays Star Wars music and lights up when it’s opened. It’s mounted on a fancy stand inside a clear plastic case, for display in my home, rather than packed in a closet (which unfortunately most of my drones are!). Continue reading Star Wars drone review: Propel’s collectible $200 battle drones

Why are all of these enterprise drone packages terrible deals?

Bebop dronemaker Parrot this week announced a modeling bundle, targeted at professional real estate and building professionals.

The $1,099 Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling bundle claims to be “a high-performance tool to develop innovative marketing content like commercial videos and 3D interactive models, or to capture measurements for cost estimates or 3D model printing,” according to a news release. The product will be made available in May 2017.

Essentially, it’s a Parrot Bebop 2 with Skycontroller that also comes with a Pix4D license, some spare batteries and a backpack.

Here is the thing: the package doesn’t actually save you that much money. For $1,099, you would get:

Do the math, and the whole setup minus backpack costs $1,090 if purchased separately. Basically, this deal is netting you a free backpack. Nothing against free backpacks, but that’s essentially what this whole new product offering is. Continue reading Why are all of these enterprise drone packages terrible deals?

Layoffs hit drone-maker Yuneec, and could be as high as 70% of U.S. staff

It’s been a year of downsizing for the drone industry, and Typhoon drone maker Yuneec is the next to take a hit.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed on Friday that Yuneec laid off staff in its Americas division, as first reported by Gary Mortimer of SUAS News.

“After careful analysis of our 2016 results, we concluded that we upsized operations faster than our growth required,” according to a statement issued by Yuneec. “With much reflection, we made the difficult decision to scale back our business structure to a secure balance between operational costs and revenue.”

Because the company is privately held, Yuneec’s spokeswoman would not comment on how many people were cut, though Mortimer reported that the layoffs could be as many as 50 to 70% of staff. Continue reading Layoffs hit drone-maker Yuneec, and could be as high as 70% of U.S. staff

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones