In an era where fears of companies tracking user data are increasingly growing, Chinese drone manufacturer DJI has made another push to say the data collected from its drones is totally safe. The news comes in the midst of rumors that DJI was transmitted sensitive user data to China.
The world’s largest drone manufacturer this week released the results of an independent report which concluded that customer data collected by DJI drones is secure.
Consulting firm Kiva conducted a study of DJI drones in the U.S. last year, confirmed that for some types of data (such as media files and flight logs), DJI did not access photos, videos or flight logs generated by the drones unless drone operators voluntarily chose to share them. For other types of data (such as initial location checks or diagnostic data), the user could prevent transmission by deactivating settings in the app or via disabling the Internet connection. Continue reading DJI wants you to know that its drones data practices are totally secure→
Apple security doesn’t want you flying drones over their campus — which means the days of those sweet drone videos of the iPhone maker’s spaceship-like campus may be over.
Drone pilot Duncan Sinfield, who has been producing videos about twice a month that give aerial tour updates of the progress on the Apple Park, says his videos may be coming to an end.
During recent flights, the Apple security team has been catching him flying his drone and subsequently been asking him to leave, according to a post on Sinfield’s YouTube account today.
“Security at Apple Park generally responds in two white Prius’s to my precise take-off locations in 10 minutes or less,” Sinfield wrote. “As always, I respect all requests by Apple Security to land my drone and leave the area when asked to do so.”
When it was released in 2013, the original DJI Phantom was a remarkable drone, except for one big problem: you couldn’t see what the drone’s camera was seeing in real-time, meaning you were flying blind until you landed, unmounted the GoPro and uploaded its SD card to your computer. It was an awkward and clunky process that made for lots of missed photo opportunities and cumbersome fiddling of gear.
When the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ came out, aerial photography changed. When the camera is seamlessly integrated into the drone so it can be controlled and viewed in real time, photos not only get better, but new applications come about: spotting poachers over wildlife reserves, rescuing lost hikers or detecting where flames are in a burning building.
Want to fly a drone in a specific area, but can’t because the drone is too close to an airport?
It is currently illegal for commercial drone pilots to fly in restricted airspace (which typically occurs within 5 miles of an airport) without permission, and getting approval had been a lengthy, paperwork-ridden process that could take months. That made situations like police monitoring crowds during a protest, electric companies inspecting a problem with a power line or first responders trying to find lost hikers impossible, should those drone flights occur near an airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration is taking note — and making it easier to get nearly-instant approval to fly drones near about 500 airports.
The FAA at the 2018 FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland today announced that it would expand its tests of its real-time approval processing program to 500 airports by the fall of this year.
The tests are a part of the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program, which began last November at just a handful of air traffic facilities. The LAANC program allowed drone operators to use an interface from one of four providers that were hand-picked by the FAA — AirMap, Project Wing (an entity of X, formerly known as Google), Rockwell Collins and Skyward — to request approval to fly in restricted airspace. Operators would then receive approval almost instantly.
The expansion will begin in April, with the FAA releasing a new region each month. Here is the order of when each region will get the LAANC program:
April 30: South Central USA
May 24: Western North USA
June 21: Western South USA
July 19: Eastern South USA
August 16: Eastern North USA
September 13: Central North USA
The airspace authorization will be rolled out to nearly 300 air traffic control facilities, which collectively represent about 500 airports across the U.S. That means 78,000 miles of airspace will be opened up to commercial drone operations once the program is fully rolled out.
The FAA today also announced that it is accepting applications for other companies to become a LAANC service provider. That could ease up concerns that the ability for private companies to control the airspace is becoming an “ole boys club.”
When the DJI Mavic Pro came out, I thought that DJI had reached peak perfection with a drone. Boy, was I wrong. The DJI Mavic Air is way better than the DJI Mavic Pro.
The DJI Mavic Air combines the best of both worlds of the Mavic Pro and Spark. It’s about the size of a Spark in flight, but folds up like the Mavic Pro to become even smaller. It has the Spark’s nifty gesture control, but it also has the Mavic Pro’s 4K video.
And best of all, while it’s a huge improvement over the Mavic Pro, it’s $799 — less than the price the Mavic Pro was when it launched.
The Mavic Air is incredibly small and nimble. It’s about 8 inches diagonally across, and it weighs less than a pound. It makes the Mavic Pro look kind of huge — which is surprising given how small the Mavic Pro felt when it was announced.
The DJI Mavic Air can fly for just over 20 minutes on one battery. It comes in three colors — white, red or black. There are also sensor improvements, with a sensor that detects objects on both the front AND back of the drone. That’s amazing processing power, given how small this drone is.
DJI also made some improvements to its camera technology with the Mavic Air, including removing the delay in the shutter when it is triggered, and better highlight and lowlight details. The drone also has TapFly and ActiveTrack features, along with improvements such as “TapFly Backward Mode.”
The Mavic Air also comes with two big changes to the RC transmitter. The transmitter doesn’t have a built-in screen like the Mavic Pro does, alerting you of things like battery life, flight modes, etc. It pretty much guarantees that in order to use the Mavic Air, you’ll need to rely on a smartphone app to translate what all the various beeps mean while in flight.
The other major change is that the joysticks on the RC transmitter can actually be removed. At first I was a little surprised by the decision to make the joysticks removable. “Is this REALLY necessary?” I thought. Turns out, it really helps when packing the drone away.
However, those little joysticks can get lost super easily. I’ve already had one small heart attack over losing them — though the easy solution for forgetful folk is to simply never unscrew them.
That being said, I’ll still withhold the title of “perfect” on this drone, because there are some issues I’ve found in my year of flying the Mavic Pro that still haven’t been fixed with the Mavic Air. Namely, the RC transmitter. DJI’s drone design is simply flawless, but it seems that care given to the drone itself has been ignored on the RC transmitter. The spot to hold an iPhone just doesn’t quite fit perfect. It’s clunky to tap the iPhone’s home button when the phone is connected to the transmitter. Most phone cases must also be removed to connect them. Maybe Android users are exempt from the RC transmitter issues (I’ve never used one with a drone!) but the user experience connecting an iPhone to the drone just isn’t quite there — and never improved upon with the Mavic Air.
The DJI Mavic Air is the second drone I’ve ever reviewed that I thought that I’ve truly, 100% fallen in love with. (The first was the Mavic Pro). It’s a drone everyone needs. It’s easy to fly, takes gorgeous images and even more portable than the Mavic Pro.
I can’t wait for you to get your hands on it. Happy flying!
The Lily drone has had a rough go — and things haven’t gotten better since its release.
It’s a nice little drone with a decent camera that’s extremely easy to fly and set up. But the big problem? At $699, the Lily drone is 5x more expensive than what it should be.
A brief history of Lily Drone:
For the uninitiated, Lily launched to much fanfare in 2015 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, raising $34 million in pre-orders. The promo video showed a sleek drone that took off when thrown in the air and could navigate around objects — something no drones were able to do at the time.
The Wall Street Journal put Lily on its list of products “that will change your life,” and the drone’s cofounders were named in Fortune’s 30 Under 30.
(Drone Girl has a policy against reporting on Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns because there is little to no guarantee the drones will come to production in the form they were promised.)
Of course, Lily was a textbook example of that.
After a series of delays and hundreds of angry customers, Lily’s creators eventually admitted they couldn’t finance production and said they would give refunds to backers.
Drone insurance: do you need it? If you want to protect your own gear in the event of a crash, as well as protect yourself from liability in the event of crashing into something else (or someone else), then you do.
Unlike car insurance, drone insurance is not a legal requirement in the U.S. But, having it could save you a lot of headache later, should you be on the hook for something like your drone downing power lines, or just getting reimbursed for your own drone crashing into your pool.
And while you almost certainly want insurance for your business, hobby pilots should consider getting it too.
Here are 5 options for drone insurance targeted at hobby drone pilots:
IDRA: The International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) offers liability insurance for drone pilots that has no drone limit, no deductibles, and worldwide coverage. The $1 million policy costs $265 annually and activates within 24 hours of purchase. The policy is valid for 1 year, covering all potential liabilities from recreational flying, racing, and training.
2. Equipment insurance through the manufacturer: Manufactures including DJI and Yuneec offer equipment insurance for an additional fee, beyond the standard warranty. DJI’s drone protection plan, DJI Care Refresh, covers accidental damage for an annual fee. Fees vary by drone, but typically starts at around $100. Yuneec offers a similar warranty program called Yuneec Extended Service.
Drones whiz and whip through the air at breakneck speeds. Unfortunately, these cool machines weren’t designed for cold weather. It’s not the friendliest condition for them, but with some preparation beforehand, you can capture the beauty of rolling winter landscapes from a bird’s-eye perspective.
Before flying, read your drone’s user manual. Most quadcopters are designed to fly in a temperature range of 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Flying outside that range may put your drone at risk. But if your drone can handle the cold conditions, then read on — then get flying!
1. Beware of ice
The arch-nemesis of all helicopters and planes, ice endangers drones too. Ice accumulating on the propeller blades, alters the weight distribution, hurting the drone’s ultimate aerodynamics. Cold air over warm water causes evaporation, and this evaporative fog will refreeze on surrounding surfaces, including on the drone’s surface.
2. Know how cold affects battery life and sensors
Colder temperatures shorten the flight time of your drone by slowing the chemical reaction with the LiPo batteries and lowering the battery capacity. A fully charged drone that typically will last between 20 to 25 minutes in flight, could fly for just 10-15 minutes in colder weather. Extreme cold weather can cause an unexpected power drop, and while it’s rare, there have been cases where batteries fail completely.
Cold weather dulls the drone’s sensors which can cause the drone to drift or have less response from the control input. In addition, cold fingers or gloves make controlling the input more difficult.
3. Practice good battery health
When flying in cold weather, understanding how to make your battery go further can be to your advantage.