Category Archives: News

39% of cell sites are still out of service in Puerto Rico post-hurricane. AT&T’s drones are fixing that.

More than two months after Hurricane Maria, much of Puerto Rico still does not have cell service.

Drones could fix that. The Federal Aviation Administration today announced that it had approved the use of AT&T’s Flying COW drones to help restore cellular service. The Flying COW drones — which stands for cell on wings — functions like a cell tower in the sky, to provide voice, data and internet service. The drones can fly up to feet above the ground and cover 40 square miles.

AT&T says it is using the drones as a temporary cell service solution while it rebuilds the permanent infrastructure on the island.  The company had previously touted the drones as a lifesaver for getting those Snapchats and tweets in while service is overloaded at crowded music festivals and sporting events.

But the drones are proving to serve a real humanitarian need. Continue reading 39% of cell sites are still out of service in Puerto Rico post-hurricane. AT&T’s drones are fixing that.

DJI just launched a limited edition Mavic Pro Alpine White drone — but only at these two stores

Want a DJI Mavic Pro that stands out from everyone else’s? This new version has something in common with the drone that put DJI on the drone map — the Phantom.

DJI today announced its limited edition Mavic Pro Alpine White. The drone will only be available at two retailers —  the Apple Store and at DJI Flagship stores. It will also be available on both Apple’s website and on DJI’s website.

DJI’s Flagship stores are located in places including Shenzhen, China and Hong Kong.

The Mavic Pro Alpine White will be offered as a Holiday Combo which includes a remote controller, two extra Intelligent Flight Batteries, two additional pairs of propellers and an aircraft sleeve, at a  retail price of $1,049 US.

The DJI Mavic Pro still remains The Drone Girl’s favorite drone to date. The DJI Mavic  Pro offers a 12-megapixel camera and shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second, and a maximum flight time of 27 minutes.

Related read: DJI Mavic Pro vs. Spark: which is better?

DJI is also offering its Care Refresh plan for the new DJI Mavic Pro Alpine White for $99.

The fight that’s roiling the drone industry: small businesses see an “ol’ boys club’ forming

This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire piece here.

The U.S. government is farming out the difficult task of establishing drone regulations to private companies, but the choice of one of the world’s largest telecom companies to lead a recent effort is not sitting well with smaller companies in the tightknit drone industry.

Verizon Communications Inc.’s airspace-management company, Skyward, is the first to offer drone companies instant access to fly in controlled airspaces. The ability to fly instantly in controlled airspace is a huge advantage for pilots who subscribe to Skyward’s service.

It is currently illegal for commercial drone pilots to fly within 5 miles of an airport without permission, and getting approval has 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.

Skyward Co-President Mariah Scott said the Federal Aviation Administration has a backlog of about 28,000 requests asking for approval to fly in controlled airspaces.

The yellow circles indicate controlled airspace, meaning commercial drone operators cannot fly there without approval. Before Skyward, the approval process could take months, making impromptu drone flights like search and rescue missions illegal. Most of the area within 5 miles of all airports would be considered controlled airspace.

That could soon change, now that Skyward has rolled out software that makes it possible to fly in controlled airspace in a matter of minutes.

“Automating it is good for the industry,” drone industry analyst Colin Snow said.

But here’s the problem: The ability to offer a service like Skyward’s is currently limited to only about a dozen companies handpicked by the FAA to participate in a beta program to test how those instant approvals would work. That approach is becoming common for the FAA, which has a history of creating public-private partnerships when it comes to solving drone-related problems.

See also: ‘Swarm drones’ could replace fireworks and more, but fear keeps them grounded

The issue is that FAA’s instant-approval beta program is becoming more than that. Skyward has rolled out a full working model of its instant-approval software, and competitors who weren’t chosen to be a part of that beta program—as well as others in the broader drone community—are not taking the news well. Continue reading The fight that’s roiling the drone industry: small businesses see an “ol’ boys club’ forming

VTX? PDB? ESC’s? A simple and comprehensive guide to all the FPV drone parts

Drones are complicated enough. There are rules to follow, registrations to be done and undone and done again, there’s learning how to fly it, and then there’s deciphering all the components of a drone.

And those components can quickly turn into a pretty messy alphabet soup.

Drone  Nodes came up with a handy infographic that makes at least one aspect of FPV drones a little less complicated — deciphering all the parts that make up a drone.

That graphic is part of a larger, 11,000+ comprehensive guide to everything that goes into building an FPV drone. Continue reading VTX? PDB? ESC’s? A simple and comprehensive guide to all the FPV drone parts

DJI launches new FlightHub drone operations software at AirWorks 2017

DJI, the world’s largest drone maker, now wants to help you manage your drones too.

The Chinese drone manufacturer today released FlightHub, a software targeted at enterprise and business use cases, which manages real-time drone operations, flight data, fleets and pilot teams.

The FlightHub software was launched at the AirWorks 2017 conference, which is DJI’s enterprise drone conference happening in Colorado this week.

Here’s how it will work:

Map and Real-Time View

A map and real-time view will display telemetry, camera and sensor data. The map view is intended for offsite teams to be able to easily coordinate simultaneous flights and multiple drone teams. It also displays geofencing data to make sure drones stay away from regulated airspace. The real-time view can show live video feeds from up to four drones.

Access data any where via the Cloud

Since it’s a web-based data management tool, the data automatically syncs and stores to a searchable database. All flight logs are automatically uploaded. Access to FlightHub can be made from any browser through an Amazon Web Services server.

FlightHub will begin taking pre-orders today. Here are the pricing tiers:

  • Basic: Bind up to 5 drones with all features (excluding real-time view). Priced at $99 USD per month.
  • Advanced: Bind up to 10 drones with all features of the Basic plan plus real-time view. Priced at $299 USD per month.
  • Enterprise: Bind more than 10 drones with all features of the Advanced plan plus the ability to integrate data into a private cloud in the future. Please contact a DJI Enterprise dealer directly to purchase the Enterprise plan.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District is among the companies already set to beta-test DJI’s new FlightHub drone management system. Menlo Park FPD is no stranger to drones, and has been working with DJI since March 2016 to test products, and in emergency situations, including the Yosemite and Santa Rosa fires to provide situation awareness, assist with search and recovery and for surveying. During the Santa Rosa fires, 120 drone flights were made, marking the first time the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has authorized drone flights as part of the emergency response in a large-scale disaster.

Drone Racing League’s 2018 world championships are in one of the world’s most unfriendly countries to women

The Drone Racing League (DRL) announced the location of its 2018 DRL Allianz World Championship — and it’s located in one of the most unfriendly countries in the world toward women.

The 2018 championship races will play out in Saudi Arabia in September next year.

Saudi Arabia consistently ranks among the worst countries in the world for female travelers and workers. It was named one of Global Citizen’s “Five Worst Countries to Be a Woman” and No. 1 in “U.S. News and World Report’s 10 Worst Countries for Gender Equality.”

Adult women in Saudi Arabia must obtain permission from a male guardian—usually a husband, father, brother, or son—to travel, according to Human Rights Watch. Women must also be completely covered while in the country, cannot wear pants and are pressured to wear a full-length black covering called an abaya. Women traveling alone are not allowed to enter the country unless they will be met at the airport by a husband, a sponsor or male relative, and must also receive permission to leave. Women in restaurants not accompanied by a male relative often are not served, and a woman traveling with a man who is not her husband, sponsor or a male relative can be arrested.

Saudi Arabia is also extremely unfriendly to people who are gay, lesbian and transgender. Homosexuality and cross-dressing are illegal in the country.

In other words, it looks to be nearly impossible for female and openly LGBT racers or spectators to be a part of the 2018 world championships.

DRL, which bills itself as the world’s premier drone racing circuit, responded with the following statement:

“We firmly believe that drone racing is a global professional sport open to all genders, physical abilities and cultures and it is one of the most critical virtues of the sport that the greatest drone pilot on earth could be literally anyone, from anywhere,” according to a DRL spokesperson. (See the full statement from DRL at the bottom of this post).

That being said, DRL could provide no further details of how exactly they intend to act on that belief that drone racing is open to women.

DRL did not respond to specific questions as to how their female racers could travel into and through the country, and whether women would be allowed to enter the stadium to watch the live event.

“As many of your questions are best directed to GSA, we would be happy to put you in touch with them,” said Benjamin T Johnson, DRL’s Head of Business Development and Marketing. “Per the rest of your questions, the previous statement is all we’re able to provide on such short notice.”

After multiple exchanges, DRL ultimately did not explain why they chose to host their event in a country that makes it incredibly difficult for females to participate in the drone race.

It is unclear whether DRL has given any thought as to how women will be able to participate.

“Women are handicapped enough in the drone industry without adding official barriers,” said Loretta Alkalay, a drone attorney and hobby drone pilot.

Drone racing is a male-dominated industry, though it is unclear exactly why. Many suspect that there simply isn’t much interest among females to race. It could be lack of role models, a “pipeline problem,” marketing to imply racing is a male hobby, among other things. Those are all huge problems to tackle.

But there is one easy way to ensure we aren’t excluding women: not putting the 2018 DRL Allianz World Championship in a country that oppresses women.

To earn a spot on the Allianz World Championship circuit, anyone in the world over the age of 18 can be part of the eSport tournament on the DRL Simulator, according to a DRL spokesperson.

However, if women do qualify for a spot on the team, it’s unclear if they will have to travel with a male relative or husband, and who would cover that additional cost.

“It disqualifies me from the competition as I wouldn’t be able to get a male relative to accompany me,” said Zoe Stumbaugh, a drone racer and freestyle pilot. “I had hopes that DRL would include female competitors this season, but this doesn’t make me hopeful.”

That’s not to say there are no female-friendly drone races. IDRA’s Dover Race had a handful of female racers, and about 10% of the X Class racers are women.

Other women have referred to the news that the race will occur in Saudi Arabia as a “massive disappointment” and a “big fat ‘you’re not welcome here’ sign.”

The 2017 DRL Allianz World Championship took place in London’s Alexandra Palace.

Here is the full text of the official, lengthy statement from DRL:

At DRL our mission is to bring professional drone racing to as many fans and pilots around the world as we possibly can. This includes delivering the only watchable professional drone races to leading broadcast channels around the world and working to bring our races to new venues and territories. As we expand, we do so with our values of inclusion and competition at the core, bringing the best pilots, staff and technology everywhere we go. With each new market comes unique challenges that we work to address with our committed partners, sharing the goal of making the races and sport available to everyone.

DRL’s decision to host the 2018 Allianz World Championship race in Saudi Arabia was driven not only by our desire to satisfy our growing fan base in the region, but also because the GSA is making a concerted effort to bring global sports to the kingdom, by their own description, “that will also lead to wider social and economic benefits for the country.” DRL is one of many sports organizations hosting events in Saudi Arabia in 2018, including La Liga football, the automotive Race of Champions (featuring drivers from Formula1, NASCAR, Le Mans and IndyCar), the World Chess Championships, and the World Boxing Super Series. The complexities of bringing a major global sports championship to any country are numerous, and we’ll be working with the GSA to tackle each of them over the next several months.

But this venue announcement changes nothing about our league. As it has always been, DRL is an inclusive league. It is open to people of all genders, gender identities and nationalities. To date, we’ve had two seasons, and in that time we’ve had both men and women and citizens of eight countries compete in DRL. As we plan our 2018 Championship race we will work to ensure we are respectful of local cultures while ensuring our values remain uncompromised.”

 

Halloween Drone Contest: win a drone!

Time to test your luck and possibly win a drone!

Drone Girl has partnered with TRNDlabs to giveaway one FADER drone (valued at $129), and one SPECTRE drone (valued at $149).

To enter, simply comment on either the Instagram or Facebook post below with your best idea for using a drone on Halloween!

I’m thinking candy delivery device! Or how about this drone-turned-pumpkin cannon?

**The winner must also ‘like’ BOTH @TheDroneGirl and @TRNDlabs on Facebook OR Twitter in order to be eligible to enter.

Two winners will be chosen at random on Sunday, Oct. 29 at noon PT. The first randomly chosen winner will receive the FADER drone, and the second winner will receive the SPECTRE drone.

The winner will be contacted via Instagram or Facebook message and have 48 hours to respond with shipping information, otherwise a new winner will be chosen.

Want a bonus entry? Tag a friend (or five!), and both you and your friend(s) will receive a bonus entry! Bonus entries are limited to five per person.

Good luck!

Check out my review of the TRNDlabs Fader and Spectre drones here.

DJI AeroScope brings electronic license plates to drones

Your drone could soon get its own ‘license plate.’

Chinese dronemaker DJI this week unveiled DJI Aeroscope, a system that acts like an “electronic license plate for drones” and is intended as a way for authorities to identify and monitor drones while in the air.

DJI AeroScope is a software that works on both DJI drones as well as other manufacturers’ drones without any hardware modifications.

To work, the software uses the existing communications radio transmission between a drone and its remote controller to transmit their location, altitude, speed, direction, takeoff location, operator location, and an identifier such as a registration or serial number. That information can be transmitted to any AeroScope receiver within radio range. Continue reading DJI AeroScope brings electronic license plates to drones