The company that manufactures the drone that crashed on the South Lawn on Monday doesn’t want you to fly drones anywhere close to the White House.
DJI announced plans today to release a mandatory firmware update for its Phantom 2 line of drones that would prevent them from flying within a 15.5-mile radius of downtown Washington, D.C.
“The updated firmware (V3.10) will be released in coming days and adds a No-Fly Zone centered on downtown Washington, D.C. and extends for a 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) radius in all directions,” a news release from DJI stated. “Phantom pilots in this area will not be able to take off from or fly into this airspace.”
DJI’s update helps drone users comply with an FAA notice, which restricts unmanned flight around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
The news comes in the wake of reports that a government employee in D.C. was flying a DJI Phantom at 3 a.m. on Monday and lost control of it, causing the drone tofly onto White House property and crash.
“Some people may not realize how close they are to an airport or other sensitive locations,” said Brendan Schulman, head of commercial drone law at the law firm Kramer Levin. “This [update from DJI] is useful in preventing newcomers from flying in places that would be objectionable.”
But a lot of drone users question whether DJI’s move is necessary.
“Most people are flying at schools and parks, and they aren’t flying any type of large-size aircraft,” said Dale Jones, founder of RCFlyMaps, an iPhone app that uses real time data to tell drone users where they can and can’t fly. “Does that FAA ban relate to tiny little hobby aircraft? I’m not sure.”
The no-drone zone includes the University of Maryland Campus, Virginia’s Lake Barcroft and Little Falls Park in Bethesda, Maryland.
The next in our Women in Drones series, Leisa Adkins of Perfect Perspectives. The Ohio-based aerial video company provides 6K UDH Red Epic Dragon aerial video for feature films and TV programs. The company is one of the world’s first RC helicopter filming or aerial video companies with the unmanned payload capacity and experience to safely carry high-definition UDH digital cinematography cameras. In fact, they’ve been carrying 8-10 pound cameras through the year since 2005.
Drone Girl: Wow, you’ve been in carrying cinematography cameras through the air since 2005?
Leisa Adkins: We put our first camera on a helicopter in 2004. It did okay but was nitro powered so it was hard to keep smoke out of the shots. We quickly bought a big gas powered helicopter to resolve the smoke problem. We then started shooting music videos, golf courses and TV commercials using a 7 lb. Panasonic HV200 camera. The whole rig was very heavy and weighed 36 lbs. but was very reliable and stable in the wind. I wanted to start the business much sooner but it was just about impossible at the time to get liability or hull insurance for a drone.
DG: When did you first get into RC then?
LA: Back in the early 80’s, one (of my friends) was using an RC helicopter and a fixed 35mm camera to take photos of celebrity homes in Miami for the National Enquirer. Another did something similar by taking photos of vacation homes in Canada. Neither one could see what the camera was pointed at in the air and just shot away hoping to get anything. My family has been heavily involved in RC helicopters for over 35 years now. Both flying in, and organizing events and competitions.
DG: So drones are a family affair for you?
LA: We started the XFC Extreme Flight Championships, for example, with a couple of our friends. In 1993 my husband, Wendell, and I, along with our two daughters helped the United States Team win an FAI-F3C Helicopter World Championship in Velden, Austria. Wendell flew and I was the mechanic/caller. Later in 1998, Wendell flew an animatronic bird from one of our helicopters in Sharon Stone’s movie “The Mighty”.
DG: So you’ve been in this a long time. What changes have you noticed in the industry, even in the past year?
LA: Low cost GPS autopilots and multicopters. The first autopilot we looked at cost $20,000 and we couldn’t justify or afford it. When we started, the only people doing really good work all had top notch pilots, mechanics and designers. Today these skills are becoming less and less necessary to do the job. I remember seeing that first video of DJI’s Ace One GPS and thought, ‘wow, this is really going to change things!’
Another big change is most all early drone companies were all very focused on safety. I think this was because they grew up flying under the AMA safety code and so were conditioned to never fly over people and crowds.
Here are 5 stellar photos shot on a drone. This post’s theme? All the photos were taken by female pilots. They made some pretty bold images!
1. Bliss Dance
This photo by Stacy Garlington captures an aerial view of “Bliss Dance” a 40ft. tall sculpture by artist Marco Cochran that stands on Treasure Island’s Great Lawn in San Francisco, Ca. Garlington captured this photo from above using her DJI Phantom 2 Vision + drone.
2. Happy in the Air
3. Lightning over Trinity
ASGaerial‘s Jessika Farrar got the timing just write on this image of lighting striking in Trinity, Florida.
4. Corte Chica
This photo was taken by Loretta Alkalay in the Florida Keys. She claims to be “just a beginner,” but we beg to differ.
Do you have a Roomba roaming around your house? Thank Helen Greiner, cofounder of iRobt and CEO of CyPhy Works. Her list of accolades is seemingly endless. From her bio on CyPhy Works:
She has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in computer science from MIT. She was named by the Kennedy School at Harvard in conjunction with the U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders. She has also been honored as a Technology Review Magazine “Innovator for the Next Century” and has been awarded theDEMO God Award and DEMO Lifetime Achievement Award. She was named one of the Ernst and Young New England Entrepreneurs of the Year, invited to the World Economic Forum as a Global Leader of Tomorrow and Young Global Leader, and has been inducted in the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame.
That’s just a snippet of her many awards. We could go on, but we would be going on a long time. Instead, we’ve brought you an interview with one of the most influential people in the drone world, Helen Greiner.
Drone Girl: You’ve said in the past that your love of robots started with R2D2. He was your role model? Helen Greiner: It’s more of an inspiration or a muse, than a role model.
DG: Who were your role models when you first got into robotics? HG: I always respected academic role models. At the time they were mostly all men, and that’s changed over time which is great. It was a bit different when I was in school in the 80s and 90s.
DG: Were those role models at MIT? HG: I went to MIT because I saw a robotics competition on the Discovery Channel called 2.70. It’s now used in high schools across the country. It’s been so successful in inspiring kids to go into STEM.
DG: So you’ve obviously been in the robotics field for a long time. You created the Roomba among other things. But at what point did you decide you were going to go from ground robots to drones? HG: I did iRobot for 18 years. We built some of the best ground robots. Back in the 90s, we said, “let’s not do drones because it’s a crowded field.” Well of course, now it’s an even more crowded field. But I started thinking about what to do next. I was always jealous of drones because they essentially cheat. There’s all kinds of stuff on the ground that ground robots need to avoid or step over. In the air, there is so much more free space. There are no tables or chairs to run into. Once you get above the tree-level, there is really nothing else there. It’s an ideal space for robots to operate.
DG: But with drones, you have other problems that you don’t have with ground robots. You have to worry about battery life, which currently tops out around 25 minutes to power a flying robot in the air. Though, it seems like you have solved it through the microfilament technology you created. HG: We’ve certainly solved it for the applications that we are working on. We’ve created the PARC system. You can fly it for weeks at a time.
It is for people that are interested in monitoring their own facility, rather than someone else’s. Another drone we are building is called the Pocket Flyer. It can go a few hundred feet and into tunnels and buildings. Without a cable, you really lose communications when you go into buildings. This solves that problem.
DG: Going back to the “Drone Girl” topic, what has your experience been being a female in the drone industry? HG: When I was younger, it was a double-edged sword. I would go to meetings and be the only woman there, which some people might take as a negative. But you can use it as a positive. People would remember me and say, “well, that’s the robot lady.” I’ve always felt welcome in the industry.
DG: Your company, CyPhy Works is interesting in that the majority of the leadership on your team is female. HG: It wasn’t by design. The best qualified candidates happened to be female. As long as companies are looking for the best people, it doesn’t matter, male or female. We don’t go out of our way to hire women. It’s just, these are the people who applied and are the best qualified.
Snow overload? Ready for summer already? Hold off! These snow pictures will make you feel better about the winter weather. The best part? They were all shot with a drone! Here are my top pictures of the week, taken with a drone!
Below is my top pick for Drone Snow photo, taken by DroneFlyer. Check out their website for tons more exceptional photos!
Davis Hunt, owner of ViewPoint Aviation, sent over these pictures he took with his DJI Phantom, flying over Lake Cochituate. See the complete set of his photos on his blog here.
This fantastic photo came from Flickr member LizardOne.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Drone Girl: Why did you start the Amelia Dronehart RC Copter Group?
Rhianna Lakin: I used to work for a DJI dealer; I worked there prior to the launch of the Phantom series, when it was just the S800, flight controllers and Flame Wheel series. When they launched the Phantom, I noticed I had a few female customers. Then I started noticing a few more ladies popping up. I thought, if I have a few customers, then I thought, ‘well gosh there have to be more out there.
DG: What was your intent with the group?
RL: I knew where the drone industry was going to go. I wanted to show a softer side of it because the media would not show the softer side…no matter what you were doing with drones.
DG: So you created an Internet community for women?
RL: My goal was to start the group and bring women together so they could ask questions. I just got really tired of the forums this caveman mentality.
DG: Do you find it hard for a woman interested in, but new to drones, to find a place where she can fit in and ask questions about her drone?
RL: Absolutely. Our women’s group, we don’t have bashing over questions, we don’t have that intimidation factor. It’s more supportive group. I just got really tired of the forums — this caveman mentality. I am still on other forums but certainly, the Droneharts is something different. My goal was to bring women together of all ages and skillets.
DG: How did you get into drones?
RL: I spent the last 14-15 years between here and Asia, specifically Indonesia. While I was there, I experienced several natural disasters. I was there for the 2004 tsunami. I participated in a lot of relief efforts because I speak the language. I was there during a flash flood due to illegal logging which wiped out the village I lived in. I lost a lot of friends. There was a big search and rescue mission to find people under the logs. I knew the people that ran the company out of Portland and I thought, ‘if they could use this for aerial video why can’t they use this for search and rescue?’ Of course, I didn’t realize that was already being done.
DG: Wow, you are super accomplished in what you’ve already been doing with drones, and you’ve been doing it for years.
RL: I use them for good, search and rescue, humanitarian relief, agriculture.
DG: How did you come up with the idea of the name Droneharts?
RL: I realized we could call them anything else, (such as UAVs or UASs) but the media is still going to refer to them as a drones. If I do a search and rescue mission and I call it a drone, then suddenly that sets a positive connotation with the word “drone.”
DG: So what’s in your future?
RL: In May or June I’ll go back to Indonesia and hopefully be able to expose the deforestation and atrocities that are happening there.
DG: And what about the future of the Droneharts?
RL: It’s been so exciting to have all of you ladies jump on board. 2015 is going to be a big deal for those of us in the industry who want to make a difference. There need to be more women out there to bring awareness. My goal is to get exposure for any women that want that exposure and want to make a name for themselves. That’s another goal of mine, to promote the women within the group.
DG: How will you do that?
RL: One of my big goals is my attempt is to have a website built that will have bios of any women that want there bio there and links to all of you. There’s currently only a closed Facebook group for us. My goal is to get bios for all of you that want it and put it on the website so we can get support from outsiders and be noticed for the achievements of what you’re doing. I’m trying to collaborate between all of us, and many of us are doing really great things. Whoever wants to be involved can. A lot of us see this as a new industry. It’s one we can make a name in, make change in.
I’ve seen it too frequently. I’ve experienced major instances of sexism, but also tiny instances, like someone saying, “you fly really well for a girl!” Is that a compliment, really? Or are you putting down my entire gender for implying that women shouldn’t actually be good pilots? A well-known robotics executive once told me on the way to lunch, “I don’t believe women can be both beautiful and smart.” Really? So which one am I?
If we’re going to get picky here, even the term UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or UAS is a bit sexist, no?
It’s not that all drone companies are suffering from a serious gender diversity problem.
And it’s not that there are no successful women in drones. It’s that women aren’t inclined to work in an industry that is sexist. They won’t work in an industry if they don’t have other role models who are like them. They refuse to be objectified, seen as the token woman, and constantly scrutinized for every mishap, question they have or decision they make when operating a drone.
That’s where I’ve proposed a New Year’s Resolution for the drone industry. Let’s support women in drones. To the companies listed above, be conscious of this when hiring or promoting in the new year. To people in the drone industry, be conscious of how you treat a woman, whether she is new and curious about getting into the industry or a better pilot than you.
And as for myself, I need to be better about celebrating women in drones too. That’s why, this year, I’m going to regularly feature Q&As or profiles of women who have done great things for the drone industry.
There are so many badass women in drones. They just need to have a voice. And you’ll hear it here, on The Drone Girl.
The drones are coming in droves so large, that the Consumer Electronics Association devoted an entire area of the CES conference to the flying robots.
The global market for consumer drones is expected to approach $130 million in revenue in 2015, increasing by 55% from 2014, according to CEA research.
“Drones and unmanned systems are being used to assist in a variety of applications, from aerial coverage for sports and real estate, to assistance in search and rescue and disaster relief missions,” said Karen Chupka, a vice president at CEA.
Here’s a guide to some of the most innovative and important drones you need to know:
Hubsan X4 Pro with Parachute
What happens when your drone collides with something and crashes? Instead of a 5 pound piece of metal falling from the sky, the Hubsan X4 Pro offers a solution — a parachute. The parachute can be removed or assembled freely and used multiple times.
In addition, the drone comes equipped with a 1080p high definition camera, 3 axis gimbal rotation and automatic return to home technology.
The release date and cost of the Hubsan X4 Pro has yet to be announced.
Two of 2015’s top tech trends are drones and wearables, so why not combine them into one? Intel released a small drone that can be worn on the wrist as a slap bracelet until it is launched into the air. Called “Nixie,” the drone is powered by Intel’s Edison kit. The drone can be used not only as a high-tech fashion statement, but for taking pictures.