Category Archives: Reader Submissions

How “Book of Hours” author Janet Pywell used a drone to write her newest book

The following piece is a guest post by Janet Pywell, author of the book “Book of Hours,” a crime thriller in which one of the ‘characters’ is a drone.

I knew nothing about drones until I was walking on the beach near my home and a man was using a drone to photograph the coast. As a writer, I’m naturally curious and I stopped to speak to him. I was surprised when he told me you don’t need a license to fly a drone, that they weren’t expensive and that they were pretty easy to use.

book of hoursI came across drones again after watching Helen Mirren’s film, “Eye in the Sky.” It’s contemporary, controversial and exciting. I thought they would add a thrilling dimension to my novel but I needed to understand their capabilities in order to work them into my narrative – and find out how and where I could use them in the relative scenes.

My latest crime thriller, “Book of Hours,” follows the protagonist Mikky dos Santos. In the novel, Mikky uses a Phantom 4 to help her navigate a pathway through a web of lies and deceit. Continue reading How “Book of Hours” author Janet Pywell used a drone to write her newest book

Connectivity issues and the concerns no one is talking about around drone delivery

The following piece is a guest post by telecommunications specialist George Smith.

By now it’s pretty clear that Amazon’s master plan to take their delivery services to the skies via drone isn’t going to be easy. There are issues around flying beyond line of site, implementing obstacle sensors to avoid collisions, and getting regulatory approval. But there’s a completely different issue that no one is talking about: connectivity.

Maintaining a strong and stable internet connection

Since delivery drones would fly autonomously rather than have a designated pilot, each drone needs to have the ability to send and receive information to air traffic control instantaneously so they know which parts of the air to avoid. To do that, Amazon’s drones will likely utilize a mixture of Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity.

Cellular connectivity will likely be delivered using roaming M2M SIM cards. M2M (machine to machine) means the communication between two or more devices without need for human interaction; in most cases this communication is in the form of data exchanges over a cellular network. These SIM cards allow technologies like drones to monitor networks for the best connection wherever they are in the country.

Battery life of drones

But with M2M SIM cards comes another obstacle: battery power. Although M2M can provide drones with connectivity, they can also be power-thirsty if exchanging large amounts of data. A potential solution? Low-powered wide-area networks, also known as LPWAN. LPWAN is a type of wireless telecommunication network designed to allow long range communications at a low bit rate, meaning they are extremely power efficient.

Although LPWAN services such as SigFox and LoRa are becoming more widely available, they aren’t yet being implemented in technology that flies — but that doesn’t mean they never will.

Managing drone GPS connections

As well as a strong internet connection, delivery drones require GPS signals to pinpoint their location and allow the companies to monitor the locations of their drones. But as drones fly farther away, with ‘beyond the line of sight’ comes greater risk of a dropped GPS signal. Continue reading Connectivity issues and the concerns no one is talking about around drone delivery

What is FPV freestyle, and how is it different than drone racing?

The following piece is a guest post by FPV drone pilot BMac. Check out his YouTube Channel BMac FPV or his website FPV Drone Pro.

FPV drone racing is blazing a path to becoming the next big E-sport of the world.

While drone racing has been happening for years, some say drone racing became an official sport in 2016 when the Drone Racing League pitted the world’s best drone pilots against each other in high speed obstacle courses and hosted a Drone Nationals event. DRL recently received sponsorship from Allianz insurance to solidify a new 6 race series in major venues across the globe called “The Allianz World Championships.”

But before flying through extravagant obstacle courses, the people who are now professional drone racing pilots started out doing tricks and maneuvers in places they thought looked cool or offered challenging architecture.  This is the heart and soul of FPV Freestyle.

What is FPV Freestyle?

While drone racing simply involves completing an obstacle race course in the fastest possible time, FPV freestyle involves navigating tight corners, under trees, around obstacles and through small openings all while doing tricks. Pilots must do all that while having an understanding of their spatial positioning to avoid hitting the ground while doing a power loop or clip a race gate.

Below is a list of the suggested trick difficulties from the drone national championships official rules.  Each trick is awarded points based on difficulty. Continue reading What is FPV freestyle, and how is it different than drone racing?

The complete 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 complete 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

7 steps every beginner drone pilot should take to become a pro

The following is a guest post by Michael Karp, author of the blog Drone Business Marketer.

The FAA predicts that hobbyist drone sales will increase from 1.9 million in 2016 to 4.3 million in 2020. With that many novice pilots flying around, it’s imperative they learn how to fly safely.

Here are the 7 steps new pilots should follow in order to become a proficient drone flyer: Continue reading 7 steps every beginner drone pilot should take to become a pro

Drone Pilot Ground School: save $50 using coupon code DroneGirl50

Still haven’t taken the FAA Part 107 test?

Drone operators with existing Part 61 pilot certificates can bypass the in-person, written exam and instead take an online course. But for drone operators without that, they’ll have to take the test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.

And that test is definitely something you’ll need to study for.tav coach drone pilot ground school

My friends at UAV Coach’s Drone Pilot Ground School, which I happen to be using myself, are offering $50 off their online training course. For a one-time fee of $299 (or $249 using this link) you will get access to 30+ lectures, practice quizzes, and five different practice tests.

Simply use this link for the savings to automatically be added, or use Drone Pilot Ground School coupon code DRONEGIRL50. Continue reading Drone Pilot Ground School: save $50 using coupon code DroneGirl50

How the U.S. offshore wind energy industry could benefit from drones

The following post was contributed by Todd Sumner. Todd is is an attorney and legislative affairs advocate representing clients on a wide range of environmental, renewable energy, unmanned systems technologies and regulatory matters. He can be reached at

2016 has so far been quite remarkable for both the U.S. offshore wind energy industry and the drone industry. Deepwater Wind  this month made history by completing construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, marking the beginning of a new era for American offshore wind energy.

And this week, Part 107, the  much-awaited Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) final rules allowing for greater integration of non-recreational operations of small unmanned aerial vehicles into the National Airspace System (NAS) become effective, further expanding the UAS industry for the economic benefit of numerous existing businesses and other industries, including the fledgling U.S. offshore wind energy industry.

Massive growth in wind energy

The overall U.S. wind energy industry is growing: the cost of wind power has declined over the past several years,the recent extension of the wind energy production tax credit is providing a strong degree of regulatory certainty for the industry, and more efficient construction methods have made wind power today more viable in the power sector than ever before.

High profile corporate entities are unilaterally pursuing their own power purchase agreements of wind and other renewable energy sources and there has been an increase in utilities seeking to invest in wind energy developments. States including California, Hawaii and New York are modifying their renewable portfolio standards.  Massachusetts has a new law that calls for the use of 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy within the next decade. The U.S. Department of Energy is setting up for the provision of research funding off the coasts of New Jersey, Maine and a freshwater wind farm in Lake Erie. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) awarded 11 commercial leases off the Atlantic coast and announced in August a proposed sale notice and request for interest for commercial leasing for wind power offshore of North Carolina and announced in June a proposal to undertake a competitive lease sale offshore of New York. BOEM has received unsolicited lease requests for floating wind farm projects in the Pacific.

With Deepwater Wind’s Block Island project now fully constructed, the U.S. offshore wind energy industry’s horizon is bright as it has finally demonstrated itself and is ready to grow and adapt to address any challenges this nascent industry may face going forward.

A drone flies over the waters of Congaree River in Columbia in South Carolina on October 5, 2015. Relentless rain left large areas of the US southeast under water. The states of North and South Carolina have been particularly hard hit, but the driving rain in recent days has spared almost none of the US East Coast.  AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Part 107 clears drones for takeoff

Part 107 now removes strict requirements around commercial drone operation, primarily that the operator  had to have a manned aircraft pilot license — an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

Pilots can now operate commercially by passing an aeronautical knowledge exam at an approved FAA testing center or hold an existing part 61 pilot certificate and complete a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

While the FAA rule opens up tremendous commercial drone opportunities that could further generate job creation and economic impact, there are however, operational limitations that need to be carefully observed in order to comply with the new small UAS rule.

Key limitations include that the drone , including its payload must weigh less than 55 lbs, it must be operated within the visual line-of-sight (VLOS) of the remote pilot in command, and that it may not operate over anyone not directly participating in the operation. Drones can only be operated in daylight or civil twilight with appropriate anti-collision lighting, and cannot go faster than 100 mph, while remaining no higher than 400 feet above ground level (AGL), or if higher than 400 feet, within 400 feet of a structure.

part 107 commercial droneHow drones can help the U.S. offshore wind energy industry forge ahead

One of the core benefits of drones is they are  safer to operate and more economical and efficient than traditional manned vehicles. Drones dramatically mitigate human safety risk since no one is actually on board and are more portable, allowing for more timely and inexpensive deployment in unsafe conditions or emergency situations.

Drones are already being utilized in industries including fire management, real estate services, inspections, construction, mining, precision agriculture, and law enforcement operations.

The U.S. offshore wind energy industry is taking its very first step and going forward will be well positioned to take advantage of drone technology and the endless applications that can help reduce the installation costs of offshore wind development projects. From pre-construction surveys, minimizing risk liability for compliance with the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act to post-construction operation and maintenance inspections, the incorporation of drones will allow for a safer, more efficient undertaking of activities and tasks to help protect a project’s bottom line and ultimately the marketability of its wind energy product.

For example, drones can be deployed to assist in various pre-construction surveys (seasonal wildlife utilization) of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) blocks for a proposed leasing area.  They can help avoid impacts to the endangered species by helping to detect listed species such as the North Atlantic right whale and then coordinate vessel avoidance measures.

In terms of  nighttime vessel operations (presuming you have been issued an FAA certificate of waiver for small UAS operations at night), drones can be equipped with a thermal imaging sensor to detect heat signatures (whales and other species) at the water surface.

UAS technology can also benefit offshore wind development in other new ways. During construction, cameras on drones can  zoom in or zoom out monitoring of construction activities in real time — useful for better coordination of construction task sequencing, identifying potential flaws in construction materials, and better assessing safety conditions for construction workers. As far as operation and maintenance, drones already have a positive track record for conducting inspections of land-based critical infrastructure including railroads, pipelines, bridges, cell towers and on-shore wind farms, allowing a more efficient and strategic assessment of operation and maintenance needs without risking human safety.

That same efficiency can easily be captured and applied to the up and coming U.S. offshore wind energy projects. The U.S. offshore wind energy industry has spread its wings to take flight and with its growing UAS Industry contemporary will soar to the greatest heights.