The FAA expects 1 million drones to be sold this holiday season — and that inevitably means a lot of new pilots out there.
DARTdrones Flight School is offering a new two hour, indoor introductory course to drones and the industry, with classes scheduled through January around the country.
And now, you can save $25 off a course using coupon code “SANTACERTIFIED1.”
The course is a brief overview of all the things new drone pilots red to know – from FAA rules to equipment considerations to safety tips such as creating a flight log and emergency preparedness.
DARTdrones was created by CEO Abby Speicher, a serial entrepreneur who realized she needed drone training after a near-crash during a business pitching competition, where she was demoing drones to the judges.
“That’s the point I realized I needed a training course,” Speicher said. “And so we decided, ‘alright, let’s just make a drone training school.’”
From founding a luxury shoe company to making drones, French businessman and Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux is a serial entrepreneur.
Seydoux founded luxury goods company Christian Louboutin — the company famous for the iconic, red-soled pumps — a 3-D imaging company, and wireless products manufacturing company Parrot which makes everything from a self-watering flower pot to the Bebop drone.
With the launch of the $549 Parrot Bebop 2, the next generation of Parrot’s Bebop drone that can stay in the air twice as long as the former version, Seydoux is inching more into the drone world. Parrot acquired commercial drone company senseFly in 2012, and launched a new lineup of $99 “MiniDrones” earlier this year to target the toy market. Parrot’s drone revenues made up 57% of the company’s revenue for the third quarter of 2015.
Seydoux offered up some advice on business, investing, drones, and his biggest money mistake:
Drone Girl: You’re well-known for founding Christian Louboutin, the company that makes the luxury, red-soled shoes. How do you go from selling shoes to selling drones?
Henri Seydoux: Shoes were a friendship. Christian Louboutin (the designer behind the company) was a friend. With drones, it’s a completely different market, but in the end, they’re consumer products. You’re selling an end-product to a user, and I’m always trying to find innovative products.
Drone Girl: [Parrot] was really the first company to manufacture consumer-oriented, ready-to-fly drones. What struck you about the idea of manufacturing drones?
Seydoux: It was really about the idea that you can turn telecoms into toys. Ten years ago it would be crazy to have a camera on a phone, and the first cameras were so bad. But now, we’re putting cameras in the sky. I’m just always looking for the craziest ideas. The thing is, for me, they’re not crazy.
Here are the 6 most common myths about Amazon drones, and why they aren’t true.
1. Amazon drones can’t carry heavy packages, so what’s the point?
Amazon drones are currently advertised as being able to carry packages up to five pounds, so it’s true that the current drones being tested can’t carry much weight.
But 86% of the items that Amazon delivers weigh less than five pounds, Jeff Bezos said in a 2013 interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”.
Drone delivery has never been touted as the service to deliver a television or a piece of furniture; instead it’s being thought of as the “anti-Costco” — a service to bring you individual items that you might need right away. The package being delivered in the Amazon video is exactly that: a pair of soccer shoes.
2. Drones are targets for thieves.
Could thieves steal packages delivered by drone right off your front porch? Yes. They could also steal packages delivered by truck right off your front porch.
Package theft is surely a problem for drones, but it’s not a problem unique to drones. A whopping 23 million Americans alive today have had packages stolen from their doorsteps in their lifetime, according to insuranceQuotes.com. But package theft is common enough today that retailers factor the cost of replacing those goods into the purchase price.
On Sunday, hours before Cyber Monday, Amazon.com Inc. published a video starring TV host Jeremy Clarkson purporting to be from “the not-too-distant future” that showed how its drones could deliver a child’s soccer shoe within 30 minutes. “In time, there will be a whole family of Amazon drones,” Clarkson intoned.
When companies such as Amazon and Alphabet Inc.’s Google X unit talk about drone delivery as the next iteration of consumer retail technology, the response is sometimes a combination of incredulity and skepticism. But it’s already happening in some parts of the world — and there’s nothing magical about it.
Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup Matternet has been running drone deliveries of medical supplies and specimens in countries around the world, including Switzerland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, since it was founded in 2011.
1. Point of departure
A doctor needs to send a blood sample to a lab across the city for testing. Samples would be packed up and taken to a landing pad, possibly on the roof or courtyard of a hospital. Matternet’s landing pads need only a small yard or rooftop of clearance to take off.
Matternet’s drones can hold up to one kilogram (2.2 pounds) and transport items about 10 miles, traveling up to 40 mph, which is about standard for current drone technology. Including lift off and landing, a 10-mile journey should take about 18 minutes.
Lipos (the types of batteries on most drones) are serious business. They are highly volatile, prone to damage and can cause fires. Despite highly responsible ownership, a lipo battery is still thought to be the cause of a fire that burned down an RC shop in San Diego, and numerous videos show other accidents involving lips.
Luckily, drone makers including DJI and Yuneec have recently started creating “Smart Batteries,” meaning they display remaining battery capacity. Additionally, power management is handled internally so the battery doesn’t require a separate balance lead to control charging.
What is the difference between drones and remote controlled aircraft? What is the inflection where drones have now catapulted into this new category that is causing these new regulatory hurdles?
An audience member posed the question during a town hall style session at the Drone World Expo in San Jose. Here’s the response from Gretchen West, a senior advisor with Hogan Lovells.
Gretchen West: This industry has had an identity crisis for many, many years. The term drone was used years ago by the military to talk about unsophisticated targets and has evolved into a slang word used today. Many – especially with military or government backgrounds – have fought against using the term drone to describe the technology, but “drone” is now embedded and very unlikely to change.
It’s not about the vehicle itself. It’s about how it’s used, and that’s how the regulations have been formed.
There really is no difference between a drone and a remote controlled aircraft as far as regulations go from a terminology standpoint. If you’re flying for sport, you’re classified as a hobbyist. The second you’re flying that same exact aircraft and make money off it – you’re doing cinematography, something with agriculture – that becomes a commercial operation and then it falls under the FAA bucket.
So the vehicle you’re flying or what it’s called isn’t what differentiates, it’s how you’re using it. And there is a lot of grey area between commercial and recreational use which the FAA is working to better define.
It’s an identity crisis in terminology, but it comes down to the use case.
Coombes’ expertise is rooted in the military, where she served as a former Navy pilot. Coombes was a flight and academic instructor for the U.S. Navy and was responsible for managing training and professional development of hundreds of students, and has received Navy Commendation and Humanitarian Assistance Medals for tsunami relief missions in Sumatra. She was also awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for actions that resulted in saving an aircraft.
Drone Girl: What are you working on right now?
Mel Coombes: xCraft has been consuming my life all week actually; they’re prepping their first shipment to go out this week. xCraft came to us (Lee & Hayes) just one year ago and now they’ve come so far, and even been on Shark Tank. This is all in the span of one year.
What are the parallels you see in coming from a military background vs. the commercial and consumer drone market?
It’s kind of interesting. When I started in patent law we didn’t have a great deal of aerospace clients here, so I had very limited exposure right away. With xCraft, it’s been a lot of fun to be able to draw the parallels with my experience in the military and understanding airspace and aviation language and personalities.
Going through the user manual for X Plus One, I was just like, ‘oh! This is so awesome.’ It’s like a NATEC manual in the Navy. They’ve written it almost the same. It’s so neat that they’ve thought of all of these things and spelled it out fort the customer, to make it as simple as possible for the customer.
What’s the wildest patent you’ve ever seen in the drone industry?
I don’t think any idea is really truly crazy. Technology is moving so fast. People would have thought 10 years ago that the things we have today in drones would never happen. As long as an expert in the field can see that would happen — I have an aerospace background — it’s easy to see if something will work aerodynamically or will not. As long as it will work aerodynamically or adds a feature to the device to make it work, then the sky is the limit. Continue reading Meet the patent attorney who made the drone that won ‘Shark Tank’ happen→
The software update is an expansion of its geofencing program, a virtual barrier which literally prohibits the drone from taking off or flying into areas in its geofence. DJI already uses geofencing in “no-fly-zones,” which are mostly airports and Washington, D.C.
Think that just sounds like more limitations for drone pilots? It’s not. I outline the two reasons why everyone should applaud DJI’s move in my latest post over at Drone Coalition. Check it out here.