Only 1 in 20 Americans say they would feel safe riding a passenger drone

Remember that publicity stunt back in February when Dubai’s transportation agency chief said that human-ferrying drones would begin transporting people across the city in July?

  1. It is in fact July and those flights haven’t happened yet beyond ongoing tests (though there are still a couple weeks to go). And…
  2. Most people don’t actually want to ride in one anyway.

Research site YouGov conducted a study of American adults and found that only 1 in 20 people said they would feel safe riding in a passenger drone.

Only a quarter of U.S. adults have heard about passenger drones to being with. But after having the concept of passenger drones explained to them, 54% of consumers said they’d feel unsafe riding in one, and only one in 20 people said they’d feel safe.

YouGov passenger drone study
Courtesy of YouGov

And what about owning your own drone? 25% of consumers said they would never be interested in purchasing a passenger drone. 62% said they might be in the future, while 4% said they want one as soon as possible, according to the study. Continue reading Only 1 in 20 Americans say they would feel safe riding a passenger drone

Here are the best drone photos of 2017, according to Dronestagram

Dronestagram just announced the winners of its fourth annual drone photo contest in partnership with National Geographic, and the images are more stunning than ever.

There were three photo categories: nature, urban and people, and the contest received thousands of entries from professional and amateur photographers around the world. The contest also announced a bonus round of winners in what they dubbed the “creative category.”

See the winners from the 2016 Dronestagram Photography Contest here.

Judges included National Geographic Deputy Director Patrick Witty and Photo editor Jeff Heimsath.

The winners played with shadows, like in Luke MaximoBell’s “Two Moo,” and played with light and color in Alexeygo’s “Dawn on Mercury Tower.” My personal favorite? “Waterlily” by helios1412.

Here were the winners of the contest (all images are courtesy of the entrants via Dronestagram):

Dronestagram contest winners: Nature Category

1st Prize: Provence, summer trim by jcourtial

2nd Prize: Infinite Road to Transylvania by Calin Stan

3rd Prize: Ice formation by Florian Continue reading Here are the best drone photos of 2017, according to Dronestagram

DJI’s Phantom 4 Advanced has never been so cheap

The formerly $1,349 DJI Phantom 4 Advanced is now on sale for $1,199.

The DJI Phantom 4 Advanced was launched in April 2017 as an upgrade to the Phantom 4 drone, improving on its predecessor’s camera with a 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor and a mechanical shutter lens. It shoots 4K video at 60 frames per second with a video processor supporting H.264 4K videos at 60fps or H.265 4K at 30fps, both with a 100Mbps bitrate.

The Phantom 4 was one of DJI’s most revolutionary drones when it was announced; it was the first consumer drone to offer sense and avoid technology. If the drone sensed and object in front of it — be it a building or a human — it would simply hover in place and not move forward. If it could detect a way to autonomously navigate around the object, it could also do that.

But since it only had a sensor on the front side, DJI also started manufacturing the Phantom 4 Pro, announced in November 2016, which improved on that by providing obstacle sensors on five sides. DJI discontinued its original Phantom 4 in April of 2017.

phantom 4 advanced
Drone Girl Sally French shows off the Phantom 4 to a curious young pilot in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

The sale price puts the Phantom 4 Advanced now at $200 more than the darling of DJI’s lineup, the Mavic Pro. So why get a Phantom 4 Advanced vs. the Mavic Pro?

The short answer: the camera.

With the Phantom 4 Advanced, you’re looking at a sensor with 20M effective pixels, vs. 12.35M for the Mavic Pro.

The maximum ISO on the P4 Advanced in manual mode for video is 6400 vs. 3200 for the Mavic, and 12,800 for photos on the P4 Advanced and 1600 for the Mavic. That means you’ll be able to get shots later in the evening and even at night with the P4 Advanced. Shooting a sunset shot with the Mavic may come out looking grainy.

Behind that, the P4 offers better flight time (30 minutes vs. the Mavic’s 27), a more stable drone in the window, etc.

Photographers looking for a deal may want to jump on this one now.

DJI ranks No. 25 on MIT Tech Review’s “50 Smartest Companies of 2017” list

When it comes to a ranking of the smartest companies in the world, DJI outperforms Microsoft, Tesla, IBM, General Electric and a multitude of other tech giants.

The MIT Technology Review released its list of the “50 Smartest Companies of 2017” and dronemaker DJI comes in at No. 25. That puts it two spots behind social networking giant Facebook, and one spot behind online learning course Udacity.

This is the first year that DJI has held a spot on the annual ‘smart companies’ list from the MIT Tech Review. The privately held drone company based in Shenzhen, China has a valuation of about $10 billion.

“DJI continues to lead the consumer drone market by making smaller, more capable aircraft at lower cost,” according to the MIT Technology Review. “Its $999 Mavic Pro drone boasts advanced flight features like obstacle avoidance and can be transported in a backpack thanks to folding arms and propellers. The company’s latest drone, the $499 Spark, fits in the palm of a hand, weighs less than a soda can, and can be controlled with hand gestures. ”

DJI saw an estimated $1.4 billion in sales in 2016 and expects revenue to exceed $1 billion in 2017. Continue reading DJI ranks No. 25 on MIT Tech Review’s “50 Smartest Companies of 2017” list

3 underwater drones that are taking the drone industry to new depths

Thought drones were just for flying? These drones “fly,” but only underwater.

Ready-to-use out of the box, underwater drones are the latest trend to come out of the robotics community.  Instead of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), these drones are typically referred to as ROVs, which stands for remotely operated underwater vehicles.

These underwater drones are typically tethered (to keep them from swimming too far away from you as well as to transmit data) to your boat or somewhere (or someone on land). The drones have cameras, making them excellent tools for underwater photographers, people who need to inspect structures underwater, scientific researchers, and even tour boat companies that want to show guests the world beneath the boat.

Most of these drones operate like the consumer-level drones you’ll see on the market today, where it is controlled with an RC controller. Much like how the left stick controls altitude on an aerial drone, the left stick controls the depth of the drone in the water. The right stick controls the direction that the drone swims. A mobile app allows you to livestream what the drone sees directly through your smartphone or tablet.

Here are three underwater drones you need to know about, sorted by price — all of which cost $3,000 or less including camera:powerray powervision

  1. PowerRay by PowerVision:  The PowerRay drone, which starts at $1,488, can go as deep as about 100 feet underwater. The sonar system can detect objects up to an additional 130 meters below the robot, allowing users to detect objects up to about 230 feet below the surface. A cord attached to the drone prevents the drone from swimming off if the pilot loses control, and it can last about 4 hours on one charge. The PowerRay drone is the sister product of PowerVision’s aerial drone — the PowerEgg — which is (you guessed it) a flying drone in the shape of an egg. Continue reading 3 underwater drones that are taking the drone industry to new depths

Thought one drone was enough? Here’s what it takes to put dozens of them in the air

The following is an excerpt of a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

In an era where it seems that some pilots can barely control one drone, some companies want to operate dozens or even hundreds at a time.

Companies like Intel Alphabet’s Project Wing, Qualcomm and Disney are working on technology to make it possible for dozens and even hundreds of drones to fly together, operated by a single person. The drone industry calls them “swarm drones,” and you might have seen them operating in fireworks-style shows at Coachella or Walt Disney World, where hundreds of Intel drones flew over the skies of the famous entertainment spot. They most famously performed behind Lady Gaga in the Super Bowl.

You may have thought Intel’s drones flew over the Super Bowl. But due to complicated technological and legal hurdles, they were actually just superimposed on your TV.

But those drones weren’t actually performing behind Lady Gaga. The entire segment where drones created shapes of the American flag and Pepsi logos was actually prerecorded and superimposed on television so the drones wouldn’t have to do complex maneuvers over thousands of people in the stands and nearby.

That is the big issue for swarm drones, which could make specific tasks—including data gathering and delivery—more efficient, but are causing a legal and technical headache.

100 Intel drones fly at night as part of an outdoor flying drone light show syncopated to a live orchestra.

The Federal Aviation Administration won’t allow any aircraft to fly near stadiums during major sporting events for safety reasons, out of fear that two drones might accidentally collide and crash into a crowd.  Despite the hurdles involved in making swarm drones legally happen on a wide scale, companies are pioneering ways to use swarm drones to take over jobs too difficult or costly for humans.

One of those companies is sending swarm drones over desolate forests in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike Coachella’s drones, these aren’t supposed to be seen; instead they’re supposed to drop seeds into the ground and spray herbicides. They’re operated by DroneSeed, one of 15 companies with government approval to fly multiple drones at once. Continue reading Thought one drone was enough? Here’s what it takes to put dozens of them in the air

Don’t fly drones through fireworks, FAA warns

You know those sweet Fourth of July videos of drones flying near fireworks? Don’t do it, the Federal Aviation Administration warns.

The FAA on Friday issued a reminder of “general guidelines for people flying drones.” Here’s what the FAA said:

  • Don’t fly your drone in or near fireworks
  • Don’t fly over people
  • Don’t fly near airports

Continue reading Don’t fly drones through fireworks, FAA warns

Drone identification: What we know about the FAA ARC plans so far

In the future, the Federal Aviation Administration could implement a system of remotely identifying drones while they’re in the air, as well as finding the pilot operating that drone.

Many suspect that the FAA could implement some sort of drone identification system similar to automotive license plates, which allow law enforcement to identify a vehicle’s owner without stopping the car. Others have suggested that the FAA could come out with a system that tracks or records the location of all drones in real time.

The FAA created a UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (sometimes referred to as ARC) to make proposals about the details of a drone identification and tracking system. The ARC group had its first series of meetings last week.

“During this initial meeting, the ARC considered issues such as existing regulations applicable to drone identification and tracking, air traffic management for drones, concerns and authorities of local law enforcement, and potential legal considerations,” according to a statement from the FAA. “The group developed some preliminary questions and identification parameters, and reviewed a sample of existing identification technologies.”

The group’s conversations could also lay the groundwork for future regulatory expansion around allowing drone flights over people and beyond line of site. Continue reading Drone identification: What we know about the FAA ARC plans so far

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones