What drone case should I buy?

Does your drone storing situation resemble something like this?

How *not* to store your drone. And protect those Lipo batteries!

You’re not alone; that was me until I stepped up my drone case game in a quest to find the perfect way of storing my drone.

There are a number of drone case manufacturers out there! I chose 3, weighed out the pros and cons, and am now leaving  it up to you to decide which is best!

Behold, the ultimate Drone Girl guide to drone cases.

*Each of these case reviews were based on it carrying a DJI Phantom. Continue reading What drone case should I buy?

Yuneec’s Typhoon H review: this drone has reached full beast mode

6 rotors. Collision prevention. Foldable arms. Retractable landing gear. 360-degree range of motion camera. The Yuneec Typhoon H has gone full beast mode.

It looks like a Tornado, but it’s priced like a Typhoon Q500. Meet, the Yuneec Typhoon H.

The $1,299 Yuneec Typhoon H is unlike any other drone in its price range that I have reviewed. It has the qualities you would expect for a professional level drone, but at a consumer price tag.

First things first: wipe the words quadcopter from your vocabulary if you’re referring to this. It’s a hexacopter (6 rotors), meaning it is able to continue flying with 5 rotors in case one fails. It also has quick-release propellers, which are easier to mount and dismount than the Q500 before it. The foldable arms also make it much easier to travel with.

But the gem of this copter is its collision prevention.The Typhoon H comes with two sonar sensors on the front, just above the camera, meaning it can sense and avoid objects in front of it.

Like its predecessor, the Q500, the drone has a 3-axis anti-vibration CGO3+ gimbal camera that produces 4K, ultra-stable high definition video and 12 megapixel images. What’s cool about this drone is it can be rotated through 360-degree range of motion. Which leads to the next new feature about the drone — retractable landing gear. The touch of one button on the controller and the landing gear can retract, ensuring that the legs never get in the frame of your shot.

The 360-degree range of motion camera is really important to me because — I’ll admit it — I’m TERRIBLE at flying nose-in. But sometimes, you need to photograph something behind you! This feature is perfect because it allows you to fly with ease while getting the shots you need — from any direction.

The Yuneec Typhoon H has a ton of flight modes. I’ve only flown the Typhoon H one day so far, so I’ll be honest — I didn’t even get to demo the other flight modes. Here they are in a nutshell (and I can’t wait for my next Flyday to continue trying them out myself!):

  • Journey Mode: Rises up to 150 feet high and then takes an aerial selfie.
  • Orbit Me Mode: Flies a circular path around you, keeping the camera trained on you the whole time.
  • Point of Interest Mode: Orbits a selected subject autonomously.
  • Curve Cable Cam: Flies between pre-set coordinates enabling the user to independently control the camera position.
  • Team Mode: Allows the pilot operate the drone separately by binding it to the Wizard, allowing the filmmaker to control the camera at the same time by binding it to the ST16 Ground Station.
  • Auto Take Off: Takes off with the tap of a button ground station.

All those features means the Typhoon H has a beast of a ground station too. One of the features I have always loved about Yuneec’s products vs. competitors is that it doesn’t require the drone to be linked to a smartphone. I can see the drone’s camera view directly from the 7-inch screen on the controller, and not mess around with my iPhone battery dying (which happens often). Everything you need to operate the drone comes in the box. The controller looks pretty complex, but it also means the user has options to use the modes described above as well as program fully autonomous flight and adjust camera settings.

Yuneec’s controller also has buttons like “H” which stands for home — as in flipping the switch will bring the drone right back to where it took off, and turtle/rabbit buttons to control the speed of the drone. Both are really handy when flying with beginners. I was flying in Golden Gate Park and got into a conversation with a passerby. He wanted to fly it, so I discretely flipped the switch to the turtle mode for safety.

The Typhoon H also comes with a free Wizard, a remote-like device that allows you to pilot with one hand. Yuneec says the Wizard, which retails on its own for $199,  will only come with the Typhoon H for a limited time. Check out my Wizard review here (it’s a nifty little gadget).

I loved the Typhoon Q500 4K when I reviewed it in August. At the time, it cost $1,299 (the same price that the Typhoon H costs now). The Q500 4K is now down to $899.99.

If your budget, is under $1,000, I still love the Q500 4K and would highly recommend it for someone looking for professional footage.

But if you can afford the upgrade, it’s worth it for the retractable landing gear, extra autonomy and safety features in this drone. While in a perfect world the drone would have sensors on ALL sides, the two sonar sensors on the front of the drone are a huge leap in the direction of drones being able to make decisions for safe, autonomous flight. And they work! I tried flying the Typhoon H directly at my flying buddy (of course, DON’T try this at home) and the ground station won’t let the drone go any further, no matter how much throttle you give it. Filmmakers may also prefer upgrading to this over the Q500 for the retractable landing gear, which previously was only available with Yuneec’s $3,499 Tornado drone. That allows the camera to get a 360-degree shot and ensure the legs never appear in your footage!

Of course, someone with more money to invest and who is looking for ultra-high quality footage would likely still want to opt for the Tornado. The Tornado’s CGO4 gimbal camera incorporates a Panasonic GH4 micro four thirds camera sensor with a 3x optical zoom lens, housed on the 3-axis gimbal system. But, a hybrid Tornado and Typhoon H could end up being the ultimate super-safe, super-smart, high-quality camera in the air. I can’t wait to see if/when that comes out.

typhoon h batteryThe battery flight time of the Typhoon H is 25 minutes. A second battery costs $109. I wish I timed it, but flying at full speed and a higher altitude meant slightly less time than 25 minutes. Also, the battery takes a long time to charge. I’m a pretty fast writer, but I wrote this review faster than how long it took to charge the next battery. (I would estimate about two hours to charge). I wish I had two batteries for this review!

The failsafe is useful. I actually tested this (yep!), and the controller can sense there is a rotor down and will prompt you to land — giving you a stern (ie. bold, red font) alert that not all 6 propellers are there. This is really a necessity for people looking to fly over crowds. I felt significantly more confident flying over trees or people in Golden Gate Park with this drone because I knew even if one prop went down, my drone wouldn’t come crashing through the air and get caught in a tree.

My complaint about this drone as a consumer ready copter is it is really large. I’m a tiny person, so I think smaller is better! I’ll write a DJI Phantom ($1,399) vs. Yuneec Typhoon face-off later, but I’ll give you a preview and say that the Phantom is much smaller. While size shouldn’t matter to professionals on a film shoot, a regular consumer might not want to pack this on a trip abroad or even tote along to a picnic.

The dimensions of the box it ships in are 21.2 x 17 x 12.5 inches. For comparison,  American Airlines’ carry-on luggage dimension limit is 22 x 14 x 9 and  Alaska Airlines’ is 24 x 17 x 10. (Of course, check with your airline and airport before traveling with a drone and its accompanying LiPo batteries). I use the same box the Phantom 4 came in as my carrying case. It’s perfect! However, while the Typhoon case is great for storage, it has a flimsy lid and no handle. Thus, it’s not ideal if you need to walk a long distance with it (walking from my apartment in downtown San Francisco, then down to the MUNI (our subway) and out to Golden Gate Park with this foam case wasn’t really the most comfortable experience.) I’m guessing Typhoon H users will end up buying a separate drone case.

This Yuneec Typhoon H is incredibly low-priced for an incredibly powerful piece of equipment. You’ll definitely want to spring for a case (Yuneec’s Typhoon H backpack retails for $149) and an extra battery ($109), which means realistically you’ll end up spending $1,557. Still, that’s a steal for a product that offers not only stable, high-quality video but also the security of failsafes and collision avoidance technology.

From the Wizard to all the flight modes to the 360-degree camera view, there is so much I want to try with this drone. Yuneec has been known to release perfect products, and they’ve done it again. It’s easy, it’s safe, it’s fun. Yuneec has also been known to price its products lower than its main competitor, DJI. (The similar Phantom 4 is $100 more than the Typhoon). You won’t find anything on the market that does this much for this low of a price. The competition better watch out — and look up. A drone of this quality and at this low of a price means the Typhoon H will be dominating the airspace.yuneec typhoon h folded

Drone Wars – the best video you’ll ever see with a drone

This video has been out for almost a year, and I can’t believe I’m just NOW seeing it!

This is legit the best video I’ve seen with a drone. Not to mention, you need to watch until the end because there is some SERIOUS girl power happening there.

The film was shot by Devin Graham, a well-known videographer who goes by Devin Supertramp on YouTube.

The video features Parrot drones, including the Parrot Bebop and Parrot Minidrones (click the links to read my reviews).  Parrot is a French drone maker and the first to make a ready-to-fly drone — the AR.Drone back in 2010. It still remains the best-selling drone among drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds on average at major retailers Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy, according to JeeQ data.

The movie was filmed over 6 different nights  in 6K with the Red Dragon, edited and exported out in Adobe Premiere Creative Cloud, according to a post on Graham’s YouTube page.

It’s fun, makes great use of drones and of course, is all about girl power. Watch it!

Want more? Here’s the behind-the-scenes video.

Things people say in the drone industry that they don’t realize are sexist

It’s no secret that the majority of people buying, flying and working in drones are male. So what’s keeping women out? It’s generally nothing overtly sexist. I’ve never heard a man say “women can’t fly.”

But a lot of the things people say are subtly sexist, which can discourage women from feeling included, getting promoted or wanting to participate. Many of these things come down to unconscious biases — instances where people automatically assume men fly yet assume women don’t. And while some things people say could be well-intentioned, the unconscious biases behind them perpetuate stereotypes.

I asked some of my female friends to tell me their stories of things men have said to them that the man likely didn’t realize was sexist.

I am printing these because I want people to realize that men and women aren’t often viewed equally in the eyes of the drone world. While it is hard to shake our pre-existing biases, I hope people will share this post so that we can at least be cognizant of our biases, and not say these things in the future. And next time, ask yourself, “Would you say or do these things to a man?”

Here are some selections, printed anonymously to protect privacy:

“Wow you’re beautiful AND smart! That’s rare!”

“Where’s your husband, and what company is he with?”

“You’re really smart. You seem to know what you’re talking about. How did you get that way?”

“You’re smarter than you look.”

To a woman wearing a branded, drone-manufacturer shirt standing at a booth: “Wait, so do you actually fly these?”

“How do you know so much about this?”

To a woman answering questions at a company’s booth during a conference: “Isn’t your job just to stand here and look pretty?”

“Let’s get to the bottom line. What do I have to do to get you to come out and give me private lesson on how to fly one of these?”

“Do you even have estrogen in your body?” Continue reading Things people say in the drone industry that they don’t realize are sexist

Two new female-led communities for drone users launch

It has been a week since the launch of the Commercial Drone Alliance – the first industry-led non-profit for the working drones sector.

“It helps end users understand the value of drones,” said co-founder Gretchen West, who served for more than a decade as Executive Vice President of AUVSI and is now a Senior Advisor for Technology and Innovation at Hogan Lovells. “A lot of end users have concerns over the ROI of the industry. There are a thousand things we have to do for mass adoption, and we just want to create that connection between the manufacturing communities with the end users.”

That community includes members like Cisco, AirMap and CNN.

The Commercial Drone Alliance is female-led and founded by West and Lisa Ellman.

“You are starting to see more women taking on leadership roles in the drone community,” West said. West led a discussion at AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL conference in New Orleans earlier this month about women in the industry. About 120 women and some men attended.

While the Commercial Drone Alliance focuses on law, perception, policy, development and innovation around drones, West and Ellman are working on a separate group targeted at promoting women in the commercial drone industry. Continue reading Two new female-led communities for drone users launch

Parrot offering up to $100 off its drones

130315951849Now through July 4, it’s “Flying Season” at Parrot. The maker of the AR.drone and now Bebop is offering up to $100 off its drones.

Here’s my review of the Bebop 2.

  • $30 off all Minidrones (new generation; except Rolling Spider and Jumping Sumo)
  • $50 off AR.Drone 2.0, Bebop, Bebop2, ‘Bebop drone + Skycontroller’, Skycontroller
  • $100 off ‘Bebop2 + Skycontroller Black Edition’

Pricing on some of the top products looks like this:

Bebop 2: $499 (normally $549)

Bebop2 + Skycontroller Black Edition: $699 (normally $799)

Airborne Minidrone: $69.99 (normally $99.99)


UPS is becoming a player in drone delivery. First stop: Rwanda

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

United Parcel Service Inc. has for decades been the company that delivers packages to your doorstep with its signature brown trucks, but the company has quietly begun expanding into drone delivery.

The UPS Foundation announced Monday it has entered into a partnership with drone startup Zipline and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to deliver blood for transfusions by drone throughout Rwanda. UPS offered an $800,000 grant to kick off the deliveries._mg_0718_1024

While major corporations like Amazon.com and Domino’s Pizza  have theorized about drones delivering shoes and pizza to your doorstep, UPS has quietly been experimenting in the drone industry—and taking the humanitarian approach. UPS last April participated in a study with the American Red Cross on making deliveries to disaster areas. UPS’s Director of Autonomous Systems Jerome Ferguson, whose purview includes everything from delivery messaging to robotic technologies, has expressed a particular interest in drones.

Drone delivery of blood has the potential to be a life-saving technology, particularly in Rwanda, where roads often wash out and it can be impossible to quickly get medical supplies to more rural areas. A drone can carry just over 3 pounds of weight over a distance of 75 miles round-trip.

Read the rest of this story here._mg_0675_1024