All posts by Sally French

FPV for kids: how young is too young to fly FPV, and is FPV bad for your eyes?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about FPV for kids. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

How young can kids fly FPV? Is it bad for the eyes? I’m interested in my son, who is 10 years old, getting into flying FPV.

-Ryan

Hey Ryan,

Of course kids can fly  FPV! In fact, some of the best FPV pilots in the world are kids!

I reached to some friends who are competitive FPV champions, as well as some friends who are drone pilots and parents, to help answer your question in detail.

For starters, as FPV pilot Jessika ‘Dronehart’ points out, Ashton Gamble, who goes by the pilot name “Drobot Racer” is 11 years old, and British teen Luke Bannister was just 13 when he won the $250,000 grand prize at the inaugural World Drone Prix in Dubai.

Lorie Grabham, president of the Saguaro chapter of AUVSI, got her daughter into flying at age 10, while Amelia Droneharts founder Rhianna Lakin said her kids have been flying with her since age 5.

“FPV doesn’t have an age limit,” she said. “I think the biggest issue is they probably need mentoring.”

Razan Alzayani/Bloomberg

As far as your question about the impact on eyesight — that’s a valid concern. I reached out to Hexinair creator and champion drone racer Zoe Stumbaugh, who calls herself an ‘HMD (that’s head-mounted display) nerd’ and has taught pilots as young as 9 years old.

She said that the amount of exposure is key. Since drone racers are relatively short — under 5 minutes, that small amount of exposure doesn’t have a significant impact.

Here was Stumbaugh’s response:

“It’s pretty much all about interpupillary distance and strain using goggles. Kids aren’t fully grown and tend to have a smaller IPD that falls out of the normal range of most goggles. 63-69mm is industry standard for the most part,” she said.

“In theory long exposure to use of micro-display goggles with improper IPD could cause problems, like hours of exposure at a time over a prolonged period of time of months/years. Funny enough, using a proper IPD goggle over time could alleviate any vision issues created from improper IPD, and may be a way of treating lazy eye and a few other eye disorders.”

You may want to look into a single screen and a Fresnel lens, allowing both eyes no matter their distance to focus on a single screen. Stumbaugh recommends checking out the VR007‘s or the nicer FatShark Transformers, which have options for binocular view and monocular viewers. Bonus points: they’re cheaper than other FPV goggles!

Looking to get into drone racing? Here’s a great starter kit.

Happy flying!

 

How to get the longest FPV range on your drone

The following piece was written by Jack Brown, is the Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com.

How far can a drone go without losing the video signal when flying FPV?

When it comes to the ideal frequency for mini-quads — that’s the famous 5.8 GHz — the best you can expect is 500 meters. But, that means you’re flying in ideal conditions where nothing stands between you and your drone. The moment your drone goes behind a tree, a hill or building, the range will drop significantly and you even might lose your signal completely.

The bottom line is, if you want to do some long range FPV flying, the 5.8 GHz frequency should be avoided.  But what if you want to fly beyond 500 meters?

Change the System

For long range FPV flying, you need more than yourself and the drone — you’re going to need a ground station that works on a different frequency. (And bring a spotter with a pair of binoculars.)

The most popular frequencies for long range flying are 1.2 GHz and 2.4 GHz. Personally, I prefer using the first one because it offers you 10km of range. It’s worth noting that 1.2 GHz is generally not recommended because in case the drone goes down and you don’t have a beacon, you’ll easily lose your drone. It is also much more effective when it comes to flying through abandoned buildings as this signal easily penetrates the walls. Continue reading How to get the longest FPV range on your drone

How to change DJI drone transmission settings to increase FPV resolution

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about how to increase FPV resolution. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m trying to find a drone/camera combination that will allow me to image animal footprints on the ground from 20m altitude. To do this, I first need to be able to see the footprint trails from the air. I’ve tested some 12Mpix cameras on a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and a Mavic and they just about pick out a trail on the FPV via my iPad. I know that increasing to a model with a 20Mpix camera will improve the resolution of still images, but will it improve my ability to see the trails on the FPV?

-Zoe

Hey Zoe,

I reached out to my buddy and drone mapping professional Jon Ellinger, the creator of TLT Photography, to help me answer this one.

He says your best bet for bang for the buck would be the Phantom 4 Pro with it’s 1″ 20mp sensor, which you noted.  The bad news is, there is no reliable way to increase the resolution of the FPV beyond a few settings which you can try in the DJI Go App.
The app will enable you to increase the transmission quality; bump it up to 5.8ghz frequency which will help stream more data smoothly. However, you won’t be able to fly long distances at that frequency.
This video offers a deeper dive into those settings:

Continue reading How to change DJI drone transmission settings to increase FPV resolution

Is it illegal for a newspaper to publish drone photos without a Part 107 license?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about whether it is legal to publish drone photos. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I have a question. My husband and I have devoted time and considerable cash to starting a legal, licensed drone photography business. Our local newspaper is publishing drone photography done by another unlicensed hobby pilot. Is this not illegal?

This is an interesting question, and one we might not have the answer to unless we get more information. First off, I want to say this is not legal advice and you should always ask a lawyer, but I’ll offer my opinion.

The key question is — did money exchange hands? If yes — meaning the local newspaper paid the photographer for the aerial images that they published — then what happened here was in fact illegal.

But if no money exchange hands, then there’s nothing illegal here, as long as they follow in accordance with recreational hobby drone rules such as staying outside of the 5-mile radius of an airport and remaining within visual line of sight. Continue reading Is it illegal for a newspaper to publish drone photos without a Part 107 license?

This $150 GoPro drone is one of the cheapest ways to get a camera in the air

Looking for a cheap way to get your GoPro in the air?

The $150 Force1 F100 GoPro RC Quadcopter Drone is an introductory drone for pilots who already own a GoPro.

It’s essentially a low-cost toy drone, but it has a mount for a GoPro.

The drone can also do 360 flips , and it has about 12 minutes of flight time and comes with an extra battery. force1 f100 gopro drone review

The drone does require some level of setup. Since the drone can interchange with your own camera, the drone has modular landing gear, which you’ll have to install if you opt to include a GoPro.

Of course, as with all things, you get what you pay for. The mount is not a 3-axis gimbal, so the video is not going to have that silky, smooth look that drones these days commonly produce. (Think all the way back to the days of the Phantom 1.) The drone itself is significantly less stable than more expensive camera drones. Continue reading This $150 GoPro drone is one of the cheapest ways to get a camera in the air

The best Instagram drone video ever just came from…Jeff Bezos?

This is a modified version of a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the whole story here.

The winner of the best drone video ever on Instagram may be…Jeff Bezos?

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently joined Instagram, and his first ever post was shot by a drone. The drone video shows the Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket production facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Blue Origin is an aerospace manufacturer founded in 2000 by Bezos that is developing technologies to send people to space at relatively low costs. New Glenn is the company’s reusable orbital launch vehicle , expected to make its initial launch test before 2020.

Bezos’s Instagram video begins with an aerial view, then pans in towards the building, ending with a photo of Bezos sitting on the roof holding a sign that says “ROCKET FACTORY COMING SOON.”
Bezos in February said he was “hopeful” that Blue Origin will begin offering trips for paying customers next year, adding that “I’m super optimistic” there will be a large market for such 11-minute thrill rides in a fully automated capsule offering views of the earth from the edge of space.

Related reads:

Drone racing: should I get into it?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone racing and getting that Star Wars speeder bike look in your videos. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

So, here’s what I picture: me, sitting in the forest, first person goggles on, flying my drone through the trees like a speeder in Return of the Jedi. Should I go the racing drone route? High quality recorded video isn’t important to me, and I’m confident that I could build it, that’s why I was thinking racing, but there’s just too many options!

Thanks, Matt

Matt, this is the most beautiful reader email I’ve ever gotten!! You have a vision and I like it!

Definitely it sounds like you want some racing footage, and the more Star Wars-inspired, the better. But first of all, I hope you’ve seen this video. It is one of my favorites, and it should get you pretty hyped!

Continue reading Drone racing: should I get into it?

Department of Defense is using SkySafe to crack down on rogue drones

As the drone industry takes off, there is another industry taking off with it — the anti-drone industry.

San Diego-based startup SkySafe, which creates technology to disable drones from flying where Skydio’s customers don’t want them to, announced that it won a $1.5 million contract with the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide mobile counter-drone systems to Naval Special Warfare units. The company will be rolling out demos and tests over the next year and hopes to have its systems in place with the DoD by 2018.

SkySafe is able to detect and selectively control individual drones, largely via radio waves. Its systems are not available to the general public, but the company works with “qualified public safety customers.”

Courtesy SkySafe

Drones that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars have been increasingly causing problems at major events. They have crashed into cyclists during races, and in 2015, a DJI Phantom drone crashed near the White House. Just last month, a drone crashed during a Padres game at Petco Park in San Diego, Calif. And in an event much like Thursday’s anticipated Warriors parade,  a drone crashed into a woman, knocking her unconscious during Seattle’s 2015 Pride Parade. The drone operator was found guilty of reckless endangerment.

Anti-drone companies like SkySafe have grown in the past few years.  DroneShield, for instance, sells a Dronegun, which is a jammer that can disrupt a drone’s remote control, forcing it to land or return to its starting point. In some European countries there are companies training eagles to take down drones midair. And San Francisco-based startup Dedrone has developed software that can detect drones in the vicinity before they even take off, and its software is already being used in a few prisons and for events, including during the 2016 presidential debate at Hofstra University and at the Golden State Warriors parade  in Oakland, Calif.

Courtesy SkySafe

Dedrone uses sensors, including RF/WiFi scanners, microphones and cameras to collect data and determine whether or not a drone is in a certain area, as well as analyze its flight path and the type of drone.

Skysafe also announced today announced that it closed $11.5 million in Series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

In 2016, the startup raised $3 million in seed funding in a round, also led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Founder Collective, SV Angel, and BoxGroup.

Andreessen Horowitz has invested in a number of drone companies including Airware, drone delivery companies Zipline and Matternet and drone auto-pilot startup Skydio.