DJI is dominating the consumer drone industry, so which companies are left?

The following is an excerpt of a piece I wrote for MarketWatch. Read the entire story here. 

The consumer drone world is crashing.

In September, California drone company 3D Robotics laid off 150 members of its staff. Two months later, GoPro Inc. GPRO, -0.86%  announced it would lay off 200 employees after recalling its Karma drone because they were falling from the sky. Parrot SA PARRO, -0.82%  , which makes the Bebop drone, announced in January a plan to reduce its drone team of 840 employees by 290 people—about one-third. In January, the makers of Lily, a widely-hyped drone that never actually made it to market, announced they were calling it quits.

So what’s left? Mostly SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd., a private Chinese company that some analysts believe has a market share as high as 85%. DJI, with a valuation of $8 billion, says sales volume in 2015 was 100 times more than that of 2011. The company rose to popularity with its ready-to-fly Phantom drone, and recently introduced a wildly popular, foldable drone called the Mavic.

But there are other companies still fighting for the dwindling market share that DJI does not own. Mota Group Inc. hopes to go public with its lineup of cheaper drones. Yuneec International and Autel Robotics, both Chinese drone manufacturers, are solid contenders to hang on in the high-end drone fight with DJI, and they’re working to avoid or face down the many problems that damaged other competitors.

Read the rest of this story here.

The compete starter’s guide to FPV flying

The following is a guest post by David over at He’s got tons of drone news, tutorials and reviews. Check out his site!

FPV flying — you may have seen it at a MakerFaire, at a drone conference, or perhaps even on ESPN.

FPV stands for “First Person Flying,” which is when you see what your drone’s camera sees in real time. Imagine it like a first-person video game, except you’re interacting with the real world.

What Are the Benefits to FPV Flying?

Traditionally, people would fly drones by line-of-sight. But this has some drawbacks. First, you’re limited to flying within a relatively short distance. When you fly via FPV, you can fly very far away (sometimes up to several miles). With a model like the Syma X8C, you can only fly as far as your eyes will let you.

A post shared by Zoe FPV (@zoefpv) on

Secondly, FPV flying is much more immersive. It’s a great feeling being able to see what your drone’s camera sees as you fly. For maximum impressiveness, it’s recommended that you go with FPV goggles over a standard FPV transmitter display. Trust me- it’s way better. Continue reading The compete starter’s guide to FPV flying

Drones will now keep your home safe

The following guest post was submitted by Chris Schneider of Check out his site here.

At January’s Consumer Electronics Show, interactive home security company “Alarm” announced it is working on a smart drone that monitors your house. No, it’s not something straight out of the movie flubber where that little yellow flying drone called “ weebo “ flies around and monitors the house.

The idea behind this smart drone is that if an indoor motion sensor picks up movement while the homeowner is sleeping, the drone takes off and flies to that location, while you stay in bed and monitor the whole thing from your smartphone.

Alarm is not alone in using drones for home security. Other startups including Sunflower Labs, Secom Co and Eighty Nine Robotics from Chicago are starting to develop these automated security drones, though none of those are able to function indoors.

Alarm’s system is tailored to both indoors and outdoors, according to Dan Kerzner which is the Chief Product Officer. The drone is based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight platform.  The drone also doesn’t fly around the property 24/7 (as that would be costly and potentially dangerous and annoying), but instead is only enabled to fly after the hours the user designates.

Once triggered, it flies to the location and starts recording and live streaming back to your phone. Of course, the sight of a loud, flying object coming closer might be enough to scare off intruders.

The following guest post was submitted by Chris Schneider of

Ask Drone Girl: where can I find music for my drone videos?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about music for your drone videos. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Do you have any website to refer me to for music free of copyrights to use for aerial video editing? Thank you.

-Jean Philippe

I’ve never gotten this question before. And I like it!

If you are posting your videos for the public (not just a family home video), then you need to either get the rights from the musician to use that music, or you need to use rights-free music. Any video posted to social networks like Facebook and YouTube also require you to either get permission from the artist to use their music or use rights-free music.

My favorite source of rights-free music is Free Music Archive. If the work is under a Creative Commons license, you may use the work as long as you abide by the license conditions, which are outlined below and in more detail on the Creative Commons website.

For my own Drone Girl videos, my video producer, Hamilton Nguyen, says he uses music from BenSound. They have great, simple background tracks.

Readers, where do YOU find music for your videos? Leave your tips in the comments below.

Happy flying, and happy video editing!

Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about hobby vs. commercial drone flying. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
I was thinking about taking the Part 107, but was curious if I need to. I would really only fly for fun, but I have a friend that has an non-profit charity for a children’s hospital. I was considering taking a few pictures for him as a favor during a golf outing he has each year. I would not be paid and would be doing it as a hobby for fun and giving to him for a memory.
Is there any legality issues with that. If he put them online on Facebook or something would it be a problem?
Hey Jeff,
This is an excellent question, and I love how you are using drones for good — for charity work in fact! What an excellent cause.
As far as using a drone for charity work without Part 107, let’s consult the FAA’s words themselves.
Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. In the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms. UAS use for hobby is a “pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” UAS use for recreation is “refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or division.”
You are certainly doing this outside of your regular occupation, and you could definitely argue that your use of a drone for charity work does qualify as refreshing of your strengths and spirits.
If you are flying for recreational purposes, make sure that you are flying in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336), which means you need to fly within visual line-of-sight, give way to manned aircraft, provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport, and register your drone with the FAA.

Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?

Where can I find drone training for structure inspections?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone classes for structural inspections. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Hey Drone Girl,

I live in Sacramento, California and I am looking for some drone training for inspections of structures. Do you know where I might find this type of training? I am willing to travel to other states where good training is offered.


Hey Scott!

This is a great question! I’m so glad you are looking to get additional training. Many people who fly drones for commercial purposes simply get their Part 107 certification and then don’t pursue other learning opportunities, despite using drones for highly technically advanced use cases.

The first thing that comes to my mind is that when you are inspecting structures, you’re probably going to incorporate thermal imaging into your flights.

From a purely theoretical point of view, I would recommend taking Brendan Stewart’s Aerial Thermography drone course. It’s an online course happening later this spring, so it’s good option for people looking ahead who want to learn from the comfort of their own couch. Sign up here. (By the way, UAV Coach offers tons of awesome great drone training courses. I used their Part 107 course and passed!)

That being said, I reached out to Brendan to give some additional background.

“Our aerial thermography course is really designed to provide the background knowledge on how thermography works, how to make sense of the infrared picture you’re seeing, and understand the process required to turn that “raw data” into usable information and added value for your client,” Steward said. “The course is designed for total beginners to thermography, who might be flying some less specialized use cases like light aerial photography and cinematography. We spend about the 1st 30% of the course on theory, understanding how to match equipment to the operation, interpret the data you receive back, and also how to deal with some of the optical illusions created by trying to navigate based on thermal imagery streamed back to your flight controls.”

As far as hands-on inspecting structures courses, it will be tougher to find a course that fits the bill. But there is good news! Continue reading Where can I find drone training for structure inspections?

Drone Girl heading to Drones Oman

Hey all you Drone Girl readers living in the Middle East!

I’m heading out today to speak at the Drones Oman conference, happening Feb. 27 and 28 in Muscat, Oman.

You may recall that I recently served as Chairperson of the Drones Middle East conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The UAE has already made huge strides in drones — just recently Ehang announced plans to try to get a drone taxi service off the ground in Dubai by this summer.

But the UAE is no without its challenges. The government currently makes it a costly and paperwork-ridden process to fly drones. In Dubai, you will have to pay a location fee of AED 3,300 (or more depending on filming location) — that’s $899 USD. Then, you’ll have to pay additional online fees of AED 5,100 ($1,388) to DCAA and expect 5 working days of processing time. Continue reading Drone Girl heading to Drones Oman

DJI partners with AMA to offer drone safety and training program

DJI announced it is launching a drone training program in partnership with the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).

DJI and the AMA will jointly promote the AMA Public Safety course, which is a hands-on training program that provides public safety officers the knowledge needed to safely and effectively use drone technology in their daily jobs. The course includes live training in flight skills and orientation management, culminating in a series of flights to apply their skills in simulated public safety missions.

The partnership also means that DJI will support the AMA’s educational outreach programs including the UAS4STEM drone construction and flight competition for teens.

The AMA is a group of about 195,000 model aircraft enthusiasts founded in 1936.

A variety of third parties also offer in-person flight training courses, including DARTdrones, which offers an 8-hour in-person course in dozens of locations around the U.S. with the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire drones. (Use promo code DRONEGIRL10 to save 10% on any drone training course!)

Many companies including DJI have gotten into hot water over users who some say aren’t qualified to use a drone. A DJI Phantom famously crashed into the White House grounds back in 2015 among other smaller incidents.  Continue reading DJI partners with AMA to offer drone safety and training program

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones