6 Dronies to follow on Twitter

There are tons of great Dronies out there, and you should get to know them! Here are 7 Dronies you should follow on Twitter.

397eb70fa97a86c7aa9cf18a7e951433Missy Cummings: Nobody understands drone technology like Missy Cummings. As one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy and now a professor at MIT, she’s an expert on drone use. She always has constructive viewpoints on drones in the military as well as mediums such as farming. She’s thought out safety and surveillance implications. Also she’s an awesome female role model. Am I a fangirl? Of course! @Missy_Cummings

@Elevated Element: This is the account to follow if you want to see art made by drones (granted they are all pictures of Baltimore). The tweets behind it are a husband and wife duo who photograph their city. Beyond that, they also have smart commentary on law, ethics, STEM education and more. @ElevatedElement

8be6a7efcfd8d0985caa11877b381137Kike Calvo: He’s a brilliant photojournalist, and he’s swiftly becoming an expert on drones. I’m very obsessed with this interview he did with Missy Cummings for National Geographic, and it turns out he is working on a whole series on drones! Can’t wait for more! @Kikecalvo

Drone Conference: This seems to be the mega-super drone conference to date. It just happens, and boy am I bummed I missed it. Luckily, their thorough Twitter account made me feel like I’m there! This account includes a range of dialogue from policy to engineering to activism. @DroneConference

a65052b421b440629787f4ccaa0cb327Matt Waite: He’s a professor at the University of Nebraska and the founder of the Drone Journalism Lab. He’s probably among the first to even consider drone use in journalism. Never mind that he’s a University of Nebraska professor and therefore a Cornhusker (I’m a proud Mizzou Tiger from a rival, and obivously better j-school, kidding, but really). He’s brilliant and paving the way for drone journalism, and I’d sure like to take a journalism class from this brilliant professor.  @mattwaite

Drones4Good: Whenever I’m looking for a new, creative use for a drone, I look here! Drones have definitely been used for bad things, but this account highlights the positive things drones do. Saving salmon? Check. Tracking poachers? Check. Mapping the Matterhorn? Now that’s just crazy awesome. Good thing we have this Twitter account to track it all. @Drones4Good

Oh, and if you don’t follow me, you should definitely consider it. Or don’t even stop to consider it. Just do it! Right here: @thedronegirl.

3D Robotics Drone helps farmers with precision agriculture

Below is an excerpt from a story I originally wrote for 3D Robotics. I also directed and produced the accompanying video. Note: this project was completely unaffiliated with Drone Girl; I’m simply reposting it here on the blog.

Vigneron Paul Sloan spends a lot of time walking up and down his vineyards.

He walks every vineyard that he farms once week — all 14 of them. He sometimes walks them 2-3 times a week depending on how critical decisions are. Those are issues like irrigation leaks, color variation, or pests like nematodes.

Sloan, a winemaker and viticulturist at Small Vines Wines, still intends to walk through his vineyards, but he now aims to walk with more intention.

By using a drone manufactured by 3D Robotics, Sloan can use aerial images captured by a camera mounted to the drone which pinpoint areas in his vineyard that need more attention.

“If you flew before you walked, you could use that image to take you to specific places that could be of concern,” he said. “This might be able to help us show where the hot spots are, where the critical areas are.”


Those critical areas are places where water pressure isn’t high enough or irrigation lines are broken. Sloan can spot where those issues are with aerial images based on color difference, growth patterns or size.

“More yellowish leaves versus bright green leaves would give you bigger variation,” Sloan said. “Less vigorous would tend to be more yellow in color — you could tell it has less nitrogen.”

From looking at the images, Sloan could physically walk those targeted areas to decide what the issue is.

“It’s not going to prevent you from being in your vineyard,” he said. “It’s just going to give you a more targeted reason for being in your vineyard.”

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Book review: art photography reaches new heights in visual tour of Baltimore

DroneArtBaltimore_smallDrones and art.

It’s an unlikely combination in a world where mainstream media is saturated with stories of how drones kill and spy on people.

But Baltimore couple Terry and Belinda Kilby have taken their unlikely combination of talents — software engineering and teaching visual arts in public school — to bring new meaning to the mainstream idea of a drone.

Drone Art: Baltimore” is the title of the first book by the couple, which together goes by the name Elevated Element. And, it’s the first ever compilation of photos in a published book generated completely by a drone.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 5.28.21 PMThe book is a visual tour of Baltimore, with photos ranging from famous landmarks like the Concord Point Light to the Mr Boh sign in Brewers Hill — aerial perspectives of landmarks any tourist would see on a trip to Baltimore. Continue reading Book review: art photography reaches new heights in visual tour of Baltimore

Flight diaries: learning lots Drone Girl

Photo of me toting around two 3D Robotics Y6 copters, by my coworker and resident drone expert Brandon Basso.

Hello Dronies!

It’s been a while since my last Flight Diary. It’s also been crazy busy as Drone Girl. I haven’t been flying as much as I’d like to, but it’s ok, because I’ve been learning more than I think I ever wanted to!

When I started Drone Girl (in June) I was living in Southern California and had just purchased a DJI Phantom, where I experimented with flying and making video mashups of my flights. In just 4 months, I’ve moved to Northern California, been able to do consulting to help others learn how to use drones, gotten to attend intelligent discussions on drones such as the Stanford Berkeley Robotics Symposium or the Commonwealth Club’s Eyes in the Sky: Drones in Law Enforcement event, learned the basics of mechanics and built my own drone, and so much more.

The best part is the incredible people I’ve met.  I’ve met 12-year-old kids who are already using Arduino to make their own projects. I’ve met farmers interested in ways to revolutionize the way they irrigate, spray pesticides or harvest their crops because of drones. I’ve met and worked with an entire newsroom who sees the value that drones could bring to their reporting.

All because I started a blog out of curiosity for a controversial new technology.

So what’s next for Drone Girl?

The sky’s the limit as they say. I want to encourage kids to pursue the educational intersection of science and math with art and creativity. I hope to continue to spread awareness through media of the positive ways we can use technology. And of course, I want to continue to learn more about drones! Happy flying!

History of drones: Navy drones in the 50s and 60s

The following piece is a family history on military drone use. Note that Drone Girl is not an advocate for military drone use, but rather is interested in exploring and researching both their modern day and historical military uses. The ‘drones’ generally referred to on Drone Girl are currently not fully autonomous. The definition of drone is quite broad, and consumer drones operate much differently than a military drone.

The cool thing about being a drone girl is that so many people want to share their stories — my family included.

Photo courtesy of Tom Anderson
Photo of Grumman F6F Hellcat Airworthy Warbird courtesy of Tom Anderson

Did you know that in the military, drones (defined as pilotless aircraft) aren’t the ones destroying targets, but were the ones being fired at for development?

I didn’t until I just learned that my great uncle, Tom Anderson, was a Navy Pilot from 1958 to the early 1960s in the Target Department at the Naval Air Missile Center in Point Mugu, Ca., just south of Oxnard. His role was providing drones as targets for the development of various missiles, mostly air to air missiles.

Military use of drones is a recent topic in the news, and a lot of people (myself included) certainly fear the concept of a little drone flying over an location in the world and dropping a bomb. But few people (again, myself included) know of how drones have been used for decades.

“With my background in drones, over the years I’ve tended to follow the news with interest,” he said. “The technology improvements have been amazing, opening the doors for many uses. If their practical use approaches the theoretical then significant regulation will be needed in the interest of safety.” Continue reading History of drones: Navy drones in the 50s and 60s

From kites to drones: a 365 photo-a-day, aerial photo challenge

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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie

Kevin Lajoie‘s has been using a kite and 30-foot carbon fiber fishing pole to do aerial photography since 2008.

But his latest tool has no strings attached. Lajoie changed up his aerial photography technique after he received a quadcopter in March.

Lajoie is now in the midst of a year-long, photo-a-day challenge, which Lajoie is in the midst of right now. (Check out the photos lining this post, which have all been taken by Lajoie).

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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie

So far, he captured photos via a kite throughout the winter in Guernsey, documenting their second coolest on recording, including two separate snowfalls, a blizzard, and the airport getting shut down for three days.

When the snow ended, so his drone piloting began. Lajoie received a DJI Phantom drone in March, allowing him to get to places he would have to wait for specific winds with kites.

Here are some of Lajoie’s tips for flying and aerial photography:

  • Coastal locations are my usual preference simply because they are the most interesting.
  • Don’t fly near airports.
  • Be careful flying around areas with more human traffic around.
  • Avoid flying near people by using the summer months to get out early and use the longer days to your advantage.

Lajoie is currently in the Channel Islands, where he has photographed in Jersey, Alderney and Herm. He said he hopes to photograph the last main Channel Island of Sark before the year ends.

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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie
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Photo credit: Kevin Lajoie

Lajoie’s aeiral photography by the numbers (so far):

  • Logged 104 KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) sessions
  • Logged 25 PAP (Pole Aerial Photography) sessions
  • Photographed at 314 with the Phantom
  • Flown approximately 400 times
  • 18,000 shutter actuations logged this year on his Nikon D5000
  • Took 11,000 pictures in 8 hours during one trip to Alderney in May and 7 flights with the Phantom, yielding 3000 images
  • Also uses GoPros and a Canon S100 Powershot

What’s next for Lajoie? He’ll be taking a ferry to France for an international Kite Aerial Photography Conference, where the CVCF (cerf-volant club de france) will be hosting a meet up to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first recognized kite aerial photograph taken by Artur Batut.

Find Lajoie’s photos on Flickr here.

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Own your drone (and paint it too)


I’ve seen a lot of drones, but very few personally painted drones!

I just put together this 3DR Y6 drone for a project at work, but once it was successfully put together according to the manual, I took it home for a fun project that is nowhere on the manual – painting!

Own your drone, and distinguish it from all the other drones when you’re out at meetups, or just happen to work in an offer where there are copters everywhere.


This first drone I painted was space inspired, fitting with the whole flying theme, right?

It was painted using nothing but nail polish!

See the picture below to see what it used to look like. Hopefully I don’t get trolled too hard for this, but that’s what you get when you go out on  a limb and own your drone.

Drone, pre-paint job

Plus I put it together myself, so I can do whatever I want with it, right?

Drone Girl

Reporting on drones, sometimes with drones