All posts by Sally French

Drone pilot directory search: Where can I find a drone pilot for hire?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about finding a licensed drone operator in your area to do some sort of job for you. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I was wondering if you know a link to who has a Part 107 license by state? Where can I hire a licensed drone pilot? How do I find other licensed drone pilots in my area?

I get asked about the existence of a drone pilot directory quite often. While the Federal Aviation Administration maintains a directory of all pilots with a Remote Pilot Certificate, the database is not searchable by state or area. The only real way to use it is to type a pilot’s name and confirm whether or not they have a license.

But what if you want to find a list of pilots in your area? What if you want a directory of pilots with  a certain skillset — mapping, real estate, etc.?

There are dozens of websites that serve as a drone pilot directory. The websites are primarily self-reported, so do your own research to find if that pilot is legitimate (and of course, check the FAA’s website to make sure they really do have a license before hiring them for a job).

And with so many websites, it can be hard to know where to look. Some of my favorites include DroneBaseDroneDeploy Mapping DirectorySkytangoUplift and UpSonder.  Continue reading Drone pilot directory search: Where can I find a drone pilot for hire?

Meet the company that is building drones to stop gun violence

There have been 1,624 mass shootings in  the U.S. in the past 1,870 days.  Just this month, more than a dozen people died in a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

That’s according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, which found that there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – nine out of every 10 days on average.

But drones could change that.

Astral AR CEO & Co-Founder Leah La Salla

Leah La Salla, cofounder of Astral AR, sees a future where drones will be used to detect guns and prevent them from being used.

Astral AR is a drone company that is working on building a drone called Edna, which is equipped with sensors that can detect guns and bombs, even if they’re located behind walls.  The drone uses X-Ray Vision, Object Identification and Anomaly Detection to spot the gun. Continue reading Meet the company that is building drones to stop gun violence

Watch Drone Girl on Ready Set Drone

I spent this week chatting with one of my favorite drone YouTube channels — Ready Set Drone!

We talk more than just drones, including how to create a social media following (Instagram — yikes!). We also talk about my latest event in partnership with the Intel Drone Light Show team, evangelizing drones and making a positive difference in the world of drones.

Ready Set Drone is a seriously informative YouTube channel. If you’re looking for great video content, then I highly recommend. Of course, please subscribe to mine too!

See the best drone photos of 2017, according to SkyPixel

Need some drone photo inspiration? The winners of the 2017 SkyPixel drone photo contest are out, and their images do not disappoint.

More than 44,000  drone photographers from 141 different countries entered the contest, which had categories in landscape, portrait and story.

French photographer Florian Ledoux nabbed the grand prize with his shot of a polar bear jumping across ice floes in Nunavut, Canada. He walked away with up to $15,000 in prizes, including a DJI Inspire 2 Premium ComboNikon D750 Body + 24-70 mm VR 2.8 Lens, a DJI Mavic Pro Fly More ComboDJI Spark and more.

My personal favorite? It’s called “Hanging Up Noodles” and was entered into the enthusiast portrait category.

Here are all the winning images that sum up the best drone photos of 2017 (all images courtesy of SkyPixel):

Grand Prize Winner

“Above the Polar Bear”

SkyPixel 2017 Winners: Landscape (Enthusiast Group)

Continue reading See the best drone photos of 2017, according to SkyPixel

Watch the entire stream of Thursday’s Girls Who Drone event featuring Intel and the drone light show team

Missed the 2nd ever Girls Who Drone event? You can watch the entire livestream here (thanks to Hamilton Nguyen for shooting it!):

The event, held Thursday at the Samsung NEXT office in San Francisco, featured Cindy Ng, marketing director of the Intel Drone Group.

Intel’s drone light shows are a form of nighttime entertainment and have flown at events such as Coachella, the Super Bowl and Walt Disney World.  They have flew over the skies of Los Angeles for an event promoting Wonder Woman and over the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas for CES 2018. Most recently, they set a new record for flying 1,218 drones simultaneously over the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The drones recreated the shape of icons like a snowboarder and the Olympic rings. Continue reading Watch the entire stream of Thursday’s Girls Who Drone event featuring Intel and the drone light show team

This DJI-funded drone company raises $12 million Series B to continue its AR ambitions

While today’s drone pilots are impressed by the innovations in DJI’s latest drones like the Mavic Air, the Chinese dronemaker has its sights set on the future — and that could be augmented reality.

Drone operations company DroneBase today announced that it has received its third round of funding from DJI. That announced is part of the news of DroneBase’s Series B funding round, in which the company raised $12 million, bringing DroneBase’s total funding to more than $17 million.

Other investors include Union Square Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Hearst Ventures and Pritzker Group.

That funding is expected to fuel the development of AirCraft Pro, DroneBase’s augmented reality technology. Its creators describe AirCraft Pro as a means of filming a CAD model in real-life vs. dropping it in during post-production. Drone blog DroneLife has an excellent look at the details of AirCraft here. Continue reading This DJI-funded drone company raises $12 million Series B to continue its AR ambitions

Meet the one and only drone pilot who has been caught for flying commercially without a license

The following is an excerpt from a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

In 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration shook up the drone industry by requiring that drone pilots obtain a license if they want to operate commercially.

After years of preparation and debate leading up to the licensing rules, it doesn’t seem that the FAA is aggressively using them to crack down on commercial pilots operating illegally. So far, the FAA has caught and punished only one drone pilot for operating a drone business without a license, according to documents obtained by MarketWatch through the Freedom of Information Act.

The punishment? A warning notice.

Less than a week after the rules went into effect, Jeffrey Slentz wanted some overhead shots of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., for a rap-music video. Before the Kansas City Royals played a game, Slentz flew his DJI Phantom 3 over the stadium.

Police followed the drone to Slentz as he landed it, and the officer was “pretty upset.”

“He was looking for any way to penalize or arrest me,” Slentz said. “He made several calls to the FBI and the FAA.”

The agitated officer was probably not a fan of the ultimate result: A warning letter arrived a week later and prompted Slentz to go get a drone pilots license. That is the only enforcement action the FAA has taken against unregulated commercial-drone pilots in more than a year and a half since the rules passed, according to the records obtained. Continue reading Meet the one and only drone pilot who has been caught for flying commercially without a license

The new Skydio R1 wants to do with drones what Tesla did for cars

It’s not often that you come across a drone made by a company that’s not DJI that really turns out to be a game-changer.

But the new Skydio R1 drone may actually deliver.

Silicon Valley-based drone maker Skydio today launched its R1 drone, which might truly be able to claim the title of first fully autonomous consumer drone. The drone has 13 cameras enabling it to see on all sides and avoid obstacles around it. And it is powered by the Nvidia Jetson AI, its platform that enables deep learning processing locally.

This photo highlights where cameras are located on the drone. There are 13 cameras in total — ensuring there are no blind spots. Courtesy/Skydio

All that processing power means that the drone is intended to fly fully autonomously. You simply set it to take off, and the drone flies — no hands required. In fact, the Skydio R1 doesn’t even come with an RC transmitter (though for people who still want joysticks, they can be used via the app). Within the app, owners can set different modes for what the camera captures, such as a 360 capture, following you or flying in front of you.

But don’t worry if you want the 360 capture and you’re surrounded by obstacles. The Skydio R1 promises not to hit them. Try to make it fly a 360-degree rotation in a forest, and the drone will navigate around even the thinnest branches. It’s impossible to crash.

With all those smart cameras, the Skydio R1 drone picks up the slack where a lot of “follow-me” drones have failed. Since it relies on sensors rather than GPS, it really knows what obstacles are around it — even moving poeple.

“A pretty typical customer experience is people fly the drone and almost immediately crash it,” said Skydio CEO Adam Bry.

In the latest wave of consumer drones, including DJI’s Mavic and Spark line, obstacle avoidance has been increasingly added to eliminate such crashes. But it’s still used more as an aid or a safety feature. With this drone, the obstacle avoidance literally flies it.

The Skydio R1 will sell for about $2,500 and can sense and avoid objects on all sides.

The Skydio R1 looks to show immense promise especially in filming action sports, like skiing, where the drone can detect trees on the mountain and not crash. It is intended to be a prosumer level drone, shooting 4K video at 30 fps and offering about 16 minutes of flight time.

The Skydio R1 comes at a tricky time for consumer drones, which have a seemingly impossible time at competing against DJI.  Just this year, action camera dronemaker GoPro laid off hundreds of its employees, primarily due to its Karma drone’s failures.

But Skydio’s leaders have been paying attention to the drone industry — and it looks like they have a chance at avoiding the mistakes made by their predecessors.

Unlike other “follow-me” drones such as the one from Airdog, which can’t exactly guarantee they won’t crash and operate primarily based on GPS, the R1 can even detect moving people thanks to the more than a dozen navigational cameras onboard.

Another indicator that Skydio has a shot? Pre-orders start today and the drone is ready to ship — a clear indication that Skydio wants to avoid the failures of predecessors that have a history of over-promising and not delivering, such as Lily (that drone launched its pre-sales that it could launch from the palm of your hand and was waterproof, but never even shipped).

The big challenge for Skydio is going to be the price tag. All that processing power costs money — and it’s going to cost customers $2,499.

Skydio’s founders aren’t too concerned. They compare the R1 to the early stages of Tesla. It’s a revolutionary drone with technology that is smarter than anything before it. But it will require early adopters who are willing to make the initial major investment.

“It’s like a Tesla Roadster,” Bry said. “It has a lot of unique qualities that you can’t find anywhere else.”

But for people who are looking to buy a camera drone, it might be tough to convince them that they can have a much smarter drone for $2,499, when they can still get a great drone for a third of the cost in something like the $799 Mavic Air (though that one can’t completely fly on its own without guaranteeing a crash).

The other big question with the Skydio R1 is how the public responds to a fully autonomous — no RC transmitter required — drone. Do people find joy in prosumer drones because they like the thrill of flying with the joysticks? Or will the public find a reason to have follow-me type drones behind the niche field of action sports photography?

But if it’s any indication that Skydio is offering something truly innovative, it’s that investors are excited. With the launch of R1, Skydio also announced a $42 million Series B funding round, bringing its total funding to $70 million. The company is backed by IVP, Playground Global, NVIDIA, Accel and Andreessen Horowitz.

Skydio’s R1 is an outstanding drone that is smarter than any prosumer drone I’ve seen before. It flies gracefully, safely and is honestly the first crash-proof prosumer drone out there.

If the price tag doesn’t scare people away, then Skydio has a shot at being the first American drone company to succeed — and the first to really serve as competition for current king of the drone space, DJI.