The competition for DJI’s SkyPixel video contest is heating up

Didn’t get a chance to enter the 2017 Dronestagram contest before the winners were announced? There are still three major drone video contests accepting entries.

SkyPixel, an aerial photography community run in cooperation with DJI, is holding its own contest — this one an aerial videography contest. The deadline to enter is August 2.

There are three categories: Nature, City, and Sport.  There’s also a People’s Choice Prize for the top ten most liked videos. Submissions should not be longer than five minutes and should include at least 30 seconds of aerial footage. And while the contest is hosted by DJI, videos captured from any type of aerial platform are welcome.

Prizes include 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.

The contest has received more than 700 entries so far, and to give you a sense of the competition, the organizers have already revealed some of the shots that are in the running.

Here are some of the best videos yet (click the hyperlink to watch): Continue reading The competition for DJI’s SkyPixel video contest is heating up

What’s more environmentally friendly: drone delivery or truck delivery?

With all the hype around the impending era of drone delivery, the industry is grappling with questions like air traffic management, pickup and drop-off locations, and security.  There’s the debate over whether drones are more or less cost efficient than traditional postal trucks.

But one of the questions that the industry has only scratched the surface on: are drones more environmentally friendly than parcel delivery trucks?

The short answer is: sometimes. And here’s the long answer:

On the surface, drones create less carbon pollution than trucks. Most drones are battery powered, and can be recharged through green energy sources like solar power. There is no gasoline involved or exhaust produce from delivery trucks.

But delivery trucks can also offer a massive amount of packages in one trip, while a drone can only transport small payloads at a time.

Moving ALL Amazon deliveries to drones would be the equivalent of running approximately 3-5x as many vans on the road, according to iniLabs CEO Kynan Eng. But most delivery companies are pushing drones for either “last-mile deliveries” or for extremely lightweight deliveries.

Impact of drones vs. trucks on carbon pollution


UW civil and environmental engineering graduate student Jordan Toy analyzed various real world scenarios to estimate carbon dioxide emissions for a paper published in Transportation Research Part D.

Toy created a heat map to show carbon dioxide emission differences between drone and truck deliveries as a drone’s energy requirements, which are measured in watt-hours per mile and the number of stops on a route increase. Red areas reflect conditions in which drones emit less carbon dioxide than trucks (lighter packages, fewer stops), while blue areas denote conditions in which drones emit more (heavier packages, more stops).

In a nutshell, small, light packages are very environmentally friendly from a carbon emissions standpoint when delivered by drones, but once the delivery route adds more stops or runs farther out from the warehouse, it becomes less environmentally friendly.

Impact of drones on wildlife

But it’s not all about carbon pollution. There are other environmental factors at stake.

A 2015 study on black bears in Minnesota found that bears’ heart rates went up significantly when it was near a drone, despite not visibly acting bothered.

In one case, a drone flying overhead caused a bear’s heart rate to spike 400% from 39 to 162 beats a minute, said University of Minnesota’s Mark Ditmer . That’s well above the heart-beat jump experienced by people riding a double-corkscrew roller coaster, according to National Geographic.

Not to mention, drones have been known to agitate birds.

That being said, cars aren’t exactly friendly to animals. An estimated 1.25 million insurance claims are filed annually due to vehicle collisions with large animals, while building roads can cause habitat destruction or fragmentation.

It seems the consensus is that drone delivery could be useful for last-mile deliveries, helping a central warehouse get items out in 30 minutes or less to customers who live in the same city.

Or as Eng puts it: “Under certain circumstances, if one insists on drone delivery it may be most efficient to have a giant drone carrier hovering constantly above a city, similar to that seen in the Avengers movie franchise. Or not.”


World of Drones Congress in Australia is a month away, and the lineup looks brilliant

Looking for an excuse to go to Australia?

The World of Drones Congress is coming to Brisbane, Australia this August, and the lineup looks brilliant. The conference is August 31 through September 2, with a bonus pre-Congress day of workshops on August 30.

The speaker lineup is the most diverse group of people I’ve seen at a conference yet, coming in from all over the globe and from a variety of industries. There’s Kathryn Cook, Facebook’s technical program manager for the Aquila drone project, DJI’s Director of Education Romeo Durscher, renowned conservationist Professor Lian Pin Koh and more.

The day before the conference officially starts will be a day of workshops, including the one I’m most excited about — a cinematography class by XM2, the same team that made the drone shots in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”pirates of the caribbean xm2 drone johnny depp

There will also be panelists, including Flying Ag Australia owner Meg Kummerow, a leader in drones for agriculture who was named one of Queensland’s Top 20 under 40 the Red Cross’s Aarathi Krishnan, and yours truly, who will be talking about the global drone economy alongside DaVinci Institute futurist Thomas Frey and Silicon Valley Robotics managing director Andra Keay,

Beyond the workshops and panels, there will be other events, including a design a drone competition for students

The conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Registration is open now.

Drone drag racing puts drones at Guinness World Record-level speeds

Drone racing has taken the world by storm in the past few years, but there’s one catch: it often seems like the drones don’t go that fast.

The drone industry is changing that, as leagues promote their new, faster drones that can clock in speeds of nearly 180 miles per hour.

The Drone Racing League on Thursday set a record with its new RacerX drone, which clocked in at a record speed of just over 179 miles per hour. The tiny drone, which weighed less than two pounds, flew along an 100-meter course at an average speed of 163.5 miles per hour, certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Earlier prototypes of the drone burst into flames when hitting its highest point of acceleration due to the amount of power being applied.

And though the Drone Racing League has seemed to have gained the most traction in the drone racing industry (it recently scored another $20 million in Series B funding, and its races have appeared in spots like ESPN2), they aren’t alone in the trend.

The Titan Grand Prix Racing Organization is hosting its inaugural Formula E Qualcomm New York City ePrix this weekend at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

The event is partially to promote the new Titan Grand Prix GFD1 drone, which its creators say is powerful enough to lift a 200lb man. The drone has eight propellers and has clocked in speeds of 110 mph. The drone is 43 inches (more than 3 feet!) diagonally from motor to motor (for comparison, a typical racing drone is about 9 inches).

titan grand prix
The Titan Grand Prix GFD1 alongside a typical racing drone. Photo courtesy of Titan Grand Prix Racing Organization

Drone pilots Zachry Thayer and Jordan Temkin will be at the controls for the drone race, in which the drone will compete in a best 2 out of 3 contest against the Formula E car on a 1/3 mile section of track, including the hairpin T01.

The race will happen at 2:30 p.m. on July 16, though the area will be available for spectators throughout the weekend.

This race is intended to be a preview of more to come next year, with the Titan Grand Prix expected to announce the complete 2018 race schedule this fall.

And over on the West Coast, the first ever drone “drag race” is happening in San Francisco next week.

The Aerial Sports League is hosting a California Drone Speed Challenge on Thursday, July 20. The drone race has sponsorship dollars from Comcast, with the winner walking away with a $10,000 prize purse.

Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi is helping drones fly without GPS

Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi wants to make it easier for drones to fly — even in areas where GPS isn’t reliable — places like street canyons, indoors, and even forests.

Shahbazi received her BSc degree in civil/surveying engineering in 2009, her MSc degree in geomatics/photogrammetry engineering in 2011, and then moved on to doing PhD research focused on the development of drones for 3D modeling at the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada. She is currently an assistant professor of geomatics engineering at the University of Calgary in Canada.

Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi
Courtesy of Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi

Drone Girl: You’ve done incredible work based on enabling drones to know their environment without the use of GPS. What does that entail?

Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi: I’m working on different types of sensors for autonomous navigation – those based on vision and those not based on vision. The ones not based on vision I cannot discuss because they are confidential! But the parts based on vision are more exciting.

They include laser scanning, which is a type of active sensing. Measurements are done from a type of instrument which sends laser beams to objects and calculates its range from them.

Then there are visual sensors. Cameras don’t measure depth, so what I’m working on is multi-view stereo. In the case of a drone, we set cameras on all sides so we have a 360-degree cover. It’s important to shoot the front, back, side and ground. And because of bird attacks and to be aware of other aircrafts, it’s important to have a view pointing up too!

DG: Bird attacks?! Is that an issue? Continue reading Dr. Mozhdeh Shahbazi is helping drones fly without GPS

DARTdrones adds specialty drone training: journalism, roof inspections, search and rescue, and mapping with DroneDeploy

Use coupon code “dronegirl10” to get 10% off any of the DARTdrones course listed below.

By now you’ve probably got your Part 107 and are likelu looking to up your skill set to distinguish yourself from the 300,000 other Federal Aviation Administration-certified remote pilots out there.

DARTdrones, which most closed a $300,000 investment from Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank judge Mark Cuban in an episode of the show that aired in February,  is now offering four new specialty drone training courses.

The drone training startup is teaming up with drone mapping software startup DroneDeploy to offer an Aerial Mapping and Modeling course. It will be a two day course that goes over how to collect, analyze and export drone mapping and modeling data.

The group will also offer a Drone Journalism Workshop focused on broadcast journalists that teaches not just how to become a certified drone pilot, but how to apply for and receive a waiver. One of the teachers includes Pulitzer Prize-sharing photojournalist Kevin Coughlin, whose work has been published in the New York Times.

DARTdrones’ Rapid Daytime Search and Rescue Workshop will be geared toward emergency responders who want to learn how to use drones to find missing people. The workshop is the first in a series of public-safety focused courses coming soon, including using drones for accident investigation, water rescue and fire scene operations.

The fourth of DARTdrones’ newly announced courses is an aerial roof inspections course.

All four drone specialty workshops will be offered three different times in 2017 at various locations around the country.

Use coupon code “dronegirl10” to get 10% off any of the above DARTdrones courses.

DARTdrones was created by  serial entrepreneur Abby Speicher and employs dozens of flight instructors to carry out drone training courses around the United States.

Amazon Prime Day 2017: the best drone deals, including Autel and Ehang

Amazon Prime Day 2017 has arrived, and there are some sweet deals on drones to be found. There are some of my favorites, including the Autel X-Star and the Yuneec Q500 4K, as well as some great deals on accessories like memory cards and a massive sale on DJI Phantom batteries.

The sale officially starts tomorrow, July 11, but deals started popping up tonight at 9 p.m. EST. The Amazon Prime Day event ends at 3 a.m. ET on July 12. Keep in mind that many of Amazon’s deals are flash sales, which means that deals on items listed on this post may be gone before you can get to them. No worries, the Drone Girl team will keep updating this piece all week!

To participate in Amazon Prime Day 2017, you do have to be an Amazon Prime Member. Though, if you aren’t quite sure if you want to be a member yet, you can still try out the free trial and partake in the deals. Sign up for a free trial here.

Here are the best Amazon Prime Day 2017 drone deals:
autel camera modules

Autel’s X-Star 4K: The Autel X-Star is one of my favorite prosumer level drones out there on the market, and it’s never been so cheap. The drone, which is priced on Amazon for $747.95 is an additional 20% off for Prime members, putting it at $598. That’s including the camera and controller. Personally, this is my top pick for Amazon Prime Day drone deals.

Check out my review of the X-Star 4K here.

*Update* it appears this deal is already gone!

Yuneec’s Q500 4K: This refurbished version of the Q500 4K is also an excellent deal at $499. The Q500, though a little old now, was my favorite drone on the market at the time it was released. It was $1,299 at the time, and normally $679 on Amazon today. But with Prime, it’s coming in at $499. That’s the same price as DJI’s Spark, but with a way better camera and much more stability in wind.

Check out my review of the Yuneec Q500 4K here.

*Update* it appears this deal is already gone!
ghostdrone 2.0 review

Ehang’s Ghostdrone 2.0: The Ehang Ghostdrone 2.0, normally $399, is just $260. The Ghostdrone bills itself as “the easiest-to-fly drone in the world” and requires an Android or iOS device and a small device called a G-Box to fly. It is not controlled by the traditional RC transmitter that drone pilots are used to. The drone has a price reduction of $326.31, and Amazon Prime members get an additional 20% off.

Checkout my review of the Ehang Ghostdrone 2.0 VR here.

U818A drone: For beginner pilots or someone who isn’t sure they want to commit more than $100 to the drone industry just yet, the U818A is the perfect starter drone. It comes with an RC controller, a camera and an app that allows your smartphone to show in real-time what the drone sees.

I reviewed it in Spring 2016 when I thought it was an excellent deal for $127. The price has since been knocked down to$89.95, but Prime members can get it on Amazon Prime Day 2017 for just $65.99.

Checkout my review of the U818A drone here.

Over on the accessory front, there are some sweet deals too.

SanDisk Memory Cards: SanDisk’s Ultra 64GB microSDXC UHS-I Card is normally $39.99, but Prime members can get it today for just $17.99. It has a whopping 64 gigs, but you are going to want that much room to ensure you never run out of space before your next drone flight. And you can never have too many memory cards.

AAA Batteries: I like to train new pilots on toy drones, which means I burn through lots and lots of batteries. Amazon’s $20.99 100-pack of batteries is now just $15.69, though personally I’m a fan of rechargeable batteries. These ones by EBL are normally $49.99 and on sale for just $16.99.

DJI Phantom 3 and 4K drone batteries: Need a spare battery for your DJI Phantom 3 or 4K? Powerextra is a third-party brand that makes batteries for the DJI Phantom 3 SE, Professional, Phantom 3 Advanced, Phantom 3 Standard, and DJI 4K drones. The battery is normally $70.99, but on sale to Prime members for just $51.99.

For comparison, a regular Phantom 3 battery from DJI is going to cost a whopping $149.

Happy shopping, and let me know about your favorite Amazon Prime Day deals in the comments below!

How to get that drone registration refund if you signed up with the FAA

Did you pay the $5 fee to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration? Hobby drone pilots can now claim that drone registration refund.

Hobby drone pilots, meaning those “operating exclusively in compliance with section 336” can delete their registration and receive a refund of their registration fee, by filling out this registration deletion and self-certification form and mailing it to the FAA at the address designated on the form.

“The FAA continues to encourage voluntary registration for all owners of small unmanned aircraft,” according to an FAA news release.

The FAA’s requirement that hobby drone users register their devices was struck down in an appeals court in May of 2017.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of John Taylor, a drone hobbyist who had challenged the legality of the FAA’s drone-registration program.

The program, which was instituted in December 2015, required hobby drone owners to register through an FAA website for a $5 fee. Drone hobbyists were then issued a unique identification, which they were required to mark on their drones. Within the first month, nearly 300,000 drone owners had registered.

The FAA did allow a brief period where users could register and the fee would be waived. Of course, people who registered during that period cannot claim an additional $5 refund.

When the court struck down the FAA’s registration rule, it referenced the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. That rule stated that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.”

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones