Are drones illegal in your state? This map can tell you.

This post was originally written by me for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire, original version of the story there.

As the federal government decides how to regulate drones in the U.S., states are moving on their own. Check out the status of drone legislation in your state here.

There is currently no federal regulation of unmanned aircraft, but Congress passed a law two years ago ordering the FAA to issue national rules legalizing drones for commercial purposes by September 2015.

In 2011, the FAA penalized drone videographer Rapheal Pirker $10,000 for using a drone. Pirker challenged the fine, and a federal administrative-law judge overturned the penalty, saying there was no law banning the commercial use of small drones.

The FAA on Monday released its interpretation of rules for model aircraft after recent incidents involving reckless use of drones. The FAA states that hobby or recreational flying doesn’t require FAA approval, but recommends following their safety guidelines, which encourage contacting the airport operator when flying within 5 miles of an airport, not flying near manned aircraft or beyond the operator’s line of sight. It also specifies model aircraft as weighing fewer than 55 lbs.

Read the rest of the story at its original location on MarketWatch.com.

Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

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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

Why it’s okay to say ‘drones’ (seriously, that’s what they’re called)

The following piece is an excerpt from a story written by Andrew Chapman, CEO of Skymount, a Vancouver-based company  that provides civilian aerial drone services. Chapman chatted with me as well as a few others in the drone space, including Mike Winn of San Francisco-based Drone Deploy. Read the full story here.

Within some parts of the industry there is a strange aversion to the word ‘drone’, and a great deal of effort is being spent in trying to install some other label in its place.

Even if we all agreed it was a good idea to change from drone to another name and went to great expense launching a worldwide marketing blitz to advertise it, at best we could succeed only in changing the terminology within our industry while the rest of the world continues calling them drones. It is a futile exercise.

For better or worse there is no central arbiter of the english language, it is an organic and evolving beast, a product of the constant flow of media and literature references running through our society. Our industry itself is a tiny, tiny dot within the maelstrom of media discussions and debate around the uses and impacts of this technology for humanity, and no amount of drum beating will convince the much larger majority to stop using a word that they’re perfectly happy with.

Google can also help to show us what images are associated with these terms. When we do an image search for ‘drone’ the results are a fairly balanced mix of military and civilian examples (slightly more commercial than military):

google_image_search_drone

However, when we search for ‘UAV’ and ‘UAS’ the images returned are almost entirely military:

google_image_search_uav

 

The story continues on Skymount.com.

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.

The Wild West: the time has come to adopt UAV safety systems

Bundeswehr Holds Media DayThis post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Drone Girl. Got a news tip, commentary or are otherwise interested in working with Drone Girl? Contact us here!

The following post is a guest piece by Davis Hunt, the Owner of ViewPoint Aviation, a company focused on UAS’s. Davis has 20+ years experience in commercial aviation and the UAS sphere. ViewPoint Aviation is eagerly working within the UAS community to safely and efficiently integrate drones into the NAS.

The emergence of the UAS industry (non-defense specific) represents a landmark moment in aviation history. The UAS industry will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and create technologically innovative solutions for a variety of industries.

Even with the unbound potential of the unmanned marketplace, the UAS industry has to overcome two perceptions that have been established by media reporting to date: drones as a weapon and drones are for spying. As a commercial operator, these are biases that I encounter literally every day, and do my best to overcome.

In the process of overcoming these perceptions, we are literally in the midst of the “wild west” mindset of an industry. With the Pirker case headed for the Court of Appeals, and realistically, any non-binding cease and desist letter from the FAA not providing actual deterrent, everyone feels equal footing in UAS operation. Continue reading The Wild West: the time has come to adopt UAV safety systems

Document from film company shows what exemptions they want the FAA to make for them

The FAA announced last week that seven aerial photo and video production companies had asked for exemptions to its commercial drone ban.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t already been using drones — reports state that drones have aided in the filming of blockbusters including Skyfall, The Hunger Games and even The Smurfs 2. And even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Gifford Hooper and Philip George of Hovercam an Oscar for the continuing development of the Helicam miniature helicopter camera system, a high-speed, extremely maneuverable, turbine-engine, radio-controlled miniature helicopter that supports professional film and digital cinema cameras.

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This picture shows a turbine-powered helicopter flying over a highly populated area to film a movie. A drone could replace this helicopter.

“Helicam provides a wide range of stabilized, remotely operated pan, tilt and roll capabilities, achieving shots impossible for full-size helicopters,” the award states.

But 7 companies, Aerial MOB, Asraeus, Flying-Cam, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision, SnapRoll Media and Vortex, want to work with the FAA by asking for exemptions to any FAA standards for flying drones.

DroneGirl has obtained a copy of a 14-page letter sent to the FAA by SnapRoll Media, one of the film companies that wants the FAA to make an exemption to their regulations so they can use drones to shoot films.

“Given the small size of the sUASs involved and restricted sterile environment within which they will operate, the applicant falls squarely within that zone of safety in which Congress envisioned that the FAA must, by exemption, allow commercial operations of UASs to commence immediately,” the document states. “Also due to the size of the UASs and the restricted areas in which the relevant sUASs will operate, approval of the application presents no national security issue.”

The letter outlines requirements, and immediately follows them with reasons why an exemption is needed. If the letter (posted here) is tl;dr for you, here are some key points:

 

Continue reading Document from film company shows what exemptions they want the FAA to make for them

Second-take: Recent drone near-miss adds weight to justification for UAV rules

A past Drone Girl article discussed the Florida “Near-miss” drone accident, in which the FAA revealed that a drone may have collided with a US Airways airplane in Tallahassee, Fla. Now, Brock Christoval, Founder of Flyspan Systems who also sits on an FAA advisory board is offering a different opinion on the matter. Here’s his take:

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F-4 Phantom Model UAV

The recent near mid air collision near the Tallahassee airport is a cause for concern. It adds weight to the justification for having rules to operate UAV’s.

The main concern from the recent incident is that that drone was in close proximity to the commercial aircraft. The commercial pilot reported of a UAV that was shaped like an F-4 Phantom. The maximum gross take off weight for this type of UAV is around 40 lbs. That’s roughly the size of a very large bird. Amateur model pilots most often use this type of aircraft and it most likely had a small turbine for its propulsion. An aircraft that size could easily take out an engine on a large commercial aircraft. Continue reading Second-take: Recent drone near-miss adds weight to justification for UAV rules