Exclusive interview with CEO of Yuneec: the drone industry’s ‘dark horse’

This is an excerpt of a story originally written by Sally French for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

MW-DU007_yuneec_20150910220521_ZHIn the consumer drone industry, Chinese drone manufacturer DJI is king. But another company has suddenly emerged as a major competitor.

Weeks after announcing a $60 million funding round from Intel, Yuneec is set to announce its first professional quality drone aimed at aerial photographers. The $4,999 Tornado H920 will allow up to 42 minutes of flight time – nearly unheard of in the drone industry. The Tornado comes just months after Yuneec’s first foray into drones with the lower-priced Typhoon model aimed more at hobbyists.

Yuneec worked with Panasonic to create a camera specifically for the Tornado with 3x optical zoom, allowing pilots to control it from the ground.

MW-DU078_yuneec_20150911153202_ZHDJI, the world’s largest consumer drone maker, is also bringing new products to market that indicate it’s aiming to dominate on professional-grade drones. It announced Thursday two new cameras for the company’s Inspire 1 drone that will allow super high-resolution imagery and are geared toward the enterprise consumer. DJI is expected to exceed $1 billion in sales this year and raised a $75 million investment in May, valuing the business at $8 billion.

But Shan Phillips, CEO of the U.S. branch of Yuneec, isn’t concerned about the competition. “The industry is big enough that there’s room for more of us,” he said. “What we want to be is the feisty number two.”

His bigger concern? Just getting Yuneec’s name out there.

Few people have heard of Yuneec — even in the relatively insular world of drones — or know how to pronounce it for that matter. (For the record, “It’s like ‘unique,’ ” Phillips said.)

Read the rest of this story here.

DJi’s newest hot product isn’t actually a drone

The following article is an excerpt of a piece originally written by Sally French for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.MW-DU006_djicam_20150910210935_ZH (1)

The next step in the evolution of drones may not be about the actual vehicle; it may be more about the attached camera.

At least that’s what the latest news from the world’s largest drone manufacturer, DJI, indicates.

DJI on Thursday announced two new interchangeable-lens cameras designed for the company’s Inspire 1 professional model drone: the X5 ($4,499) and X5R ($7,999). Both prices include the camera and Inspire 1 drone.

The cameras make DJI’s Inspire 1 the first commercially available drone featuring a micro four thirds sensor, which will allow for much higher resolution imagery. Specifically, the larger sensor will allow aerial photographers the ability to capture up to 13 stops, making high-resolution 4K video in low-light environments possible.

The new cameras will mean a huge leap forward in image quality for those using drones for professional videography and for enterprise customers who require a drone to show thermal imaging or generate 3D maps.

“Big pixels are important because there’s more surface area to collect photons,” said Eric Cheng, DJI’s director of aerial imaging, during the announcement at InterDrone in Las Vegas. “That means you get higher dynamic range.”

The more advanced X5R model will record video to both a microSD card and a solid-state disk to record CinemaDNG (RAW) video, allowing for higher-quality video.

Read the rest of this story here.

REVIEW: Lowepro introduces compact drone case

Lowepro DroneGuard drone case

This year’s hottest new drone item might not actually be the drones themselves, but the cases that carry them. The newest case to the market, the Lowepro DroneGuard series, is another high-quality case to enter the competition.

Lowepro has a history of making camera equipment cases and today announced a three-piece collection of cases designed for the Parrot Bebop, DJI Phantom 1, 2 and 3, 3DR Solo and other similarly sized quadcopters, with dedicated space and organization for accessories such as blades, props, mounts, cables and batteries.

The CS 300 is sized for the Parrot Bebop, while the CS 400  is designed for larger drones such as the Phantom. I tested out the CS 400 with my Phantom 1.

lowepro droneguard

The cases  are constructed of tough 600 denier polyester and use what the company refers to as “Lowepro’s FormShell technology for superior impact protection without added bulk or weight.”

The cases also come with removable backpack straps and dividers.

I’m a tiny person (4’10”) and I like this case because, while it’s big enough to transport my Phantom without even having to take off the propellers, it doesn’t seem bulky on my small frame. The rounded edges help give the case a softer look, but the case is most certainly large enough to hold batteries, an RC transmitter and anything else you would want to bring (I’m thinking snacks).

lowepro drone case
Lowepro (left) and ThinkTank (right)

Until the last year or two it had been pretty impossible to find a good drone case. I had been partial to Think Tank Photo’s Airport Helipak, but it’s much larger, and comes with a steeper price tag.

For the super-budget conscious, Lowepro also manufactures a DroneGuard Kit, essentially an ultra-portable tray rather than a case, but with grab handles and a rigid, durable base and honeycomb interior.

The Lowepro is a great option for someone looking for a relatively low-cost way to carry a drone in a safe, sturdy case without feeling too bulky. It’s light, smartly designed and makes drone transportation easy. Happy flying!

lowepro drone case phantom

 

Apple Store now sells DJI Phantom drones

This is an excerpt from a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

apple dji phantomIn addition to iPhones, iPads and iPods, you can now buy drones from the Apple Store. But they’re not iDrones just yet.

The Apple Store began selling Tuesday the ‘Phantom 3’ line of drones created by SZ DJI Technology Co., commonly known as DJI. DJI is the world’s top maker of consumer drones and is expected to exceed $1 billion in sales this year, compared with $130 million in 2013. The Chinese company raised a $75 million investment in May that valuing the business at $8 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Apple Inc. will sell the DJI Phantom 3 Professional Camera Drone for $1,259.95 online and in retail stores across the U.S. The machine shoots 4K video, can fly at a maximum altitude of 6,000 meters above sea level and has a 23 minute flight time. The tech giant also offers the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Drone, which has a slightly lesser camera, for $999.95.

The drones aren’t unique to the Apple Store and have been sold for years on sites such as Amazon.com Inc. and B&H Photo. DJI released the first line of Phantoms in January 2013.

Read the rest of this story here.

Ask Drone Girl: How do I fly my drone over an event?

Photo screen grab from The Drone Dudes

Here’s the next installment of Ask Drone Girl. Got a question for her? Send your email here.

Question

Hi Drone Girl,

My name is Laura and my son and his cousin started a droning business in Michigan about a year ago. Recently they were asked to drone a festival in our town, Lake Orion, and they readily accepted needing the exposure. I have a question…have you ever filmed a festival or in an area with large crowds. How do you launch your drone? Do you cordon off an area or have a launch pad? We’re worried about the thousands of people milling around the area and the danger of the blades of the drone.

Thank you,
Laura

P.S. the boys company is insured.

Answer

Hey Laura,

This is a great question, and I’m glad you have safety first in mind! Flying over people is tricky. Take the exposure, and give exposure to safe drone flying practices while you’re at it.

I have filmed in large crowds, and it’s tricky! People love to come up to you and talk to you about what you’re doing, and while it’s easy to want to be friendly and have a chat, you also need to focus. I photographed a crowd with a drone flying over Crissy Broadcast in The Presidio for The San Francisco Chronicle. Luckily at this event there weren’t too many people, so I was able to stand away from people in a grassy area to launch, without having to cordon off an area. Most drone injuries happen during takeoff and landing, so Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: How do I fly my drone over an event?

Drone footage shows massive scale of Beirut protests

This is an excerpt from a story written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

MW-DS924_beirut_20150824154435_ZH (1)Thousands of people in Beirut gathered to protest a trash dispute that has led to giant garbage piles across the country.

The protests have been mostly coordinated by participants of the “You Stink” campaign, a group calling for answers to a crisis that began back in July when residents of a town hosting Lebanon’s largest landfill refused to allow garbage trucks to dump waste there, according to The Wall Street Journal. The protesters called for the government to find an alternative landfill site, but with no alternatives, garbage collection is at a standstill.

This weekend’s protests quickly turned ugly, as police fired water cannons and rubber bullets at the crowd. At least one protester died.

Drone footage shows the scale of the protest in the streets around Martyrs’ Square:

This isn’t the first time drones have been used to document protests.

“It’s a valuable tool — a way for reporters to get a perspective on the action and get a sense of the size of the protest,” said Faine Greenwood, an analyst at policy think tank New America, who studies the development of drones.

Aerial video of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests went viral in September 2014, showing shots of the crowd as it massed in the city’s business district. Months later, a drone showed footage of thousands of activists marching in Mexico City on November 20 demanding action from the government following the disappearances of 43 students in Mexico’s Guerrero state in September.

But there are also potential issues when using drones to cover protests, including safety reasons.

“You don’t want drones flying over people’s heads for no good reason other than just a gimmick,” Greenwood said.

Read the rest of this story here.