High school drone project could save lives in water

32a2494d828a5a01fe093b3aee03bd80_originalFive seniors at King Low Heywood Thomas High School in Stamford, Connecticut won’t be going to class during the month of May.

Instead, they’ll be building something that could save your life, and it’s made possible by a drone.

It’s called Project Ryptide, and it’s an automatically inflating life preserver ring that snaps onto your drone. Lifeguards with the Ryptide attachment and life preserver would be able to snap it on within a few seconds, fly over to a swimmer in trouble, and deliver them a life preserver.

And it’s not just lifeguards who could use this. In fact, Piedra said this may come in most handy in places where there is no lifeguard.

“Any casual person going to the beach can bring their drone, and now they can be a sort of lifeguard,” said the project’s leader Bill Piedra. “They could deliver a personal flotation device and keep the person’s head above water.”

It’s not uncommon to see drones flying around beaches, operated by hobbyists wanting to take pictures. Continue reading High school drone project could save lives in water

Countdown to International Drone Day

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Less than a week left until International Drone Day!

I’ll be headlining the main event in Las Vegas alongside famous dronies including Anthony Cools, Jim Bowers, Chris Cernuto and of course, That Drone Show hosts Sarah and David Oneal!

Join me on Saturday, March 14 to listen to my talk on the future of drone journalism. Learn about how news organizations are using drones, what the FAA is proposing, and what you can expect to see in newsrooms of the future.

Can’t make it? No worries.

Join an International Drone Day Team in your area or follow @TheDroneGirl on Twitter for live updates from the main event.

Happy International Women’s Day!

In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s the culmination of a project I worked on with The Amelia Dronehart group in declaring February as Female Pilots Awareness month.

While the majority of drone operators and executives at drone companies are male, the goal of this month was to recognize that female pilots DO exist.

Women in the drone community are more than just objects intended to be men’s eye candy.

Contrary to many marketing department’s beliefs, women do buy and fly drone products.

These ladies featured in the video, as well as countless other male and female drone pilots, have come together this month to show their support for including women as drone pilots.

But just because the month is over, it doesn’t mean that we can forget the inequalities still present.

So what can you do?

  • Encourage members of the media to interview both men and women in stories about drones.
  • Buy products from companies that don’t exploit women’s bodies in their marketing.
  • Invite your female friends to fly with you.
  • Teach your daughters, nieces and neighbors the skills they need to become drone operators, from soldering to safe flying.
  • Don’t assume that because she is female, she doesn’t care about drones.
  • Politely call out people in forums who continue making sexist remarks.

Happy flying!

5 prefixes that you would never think belong with drones

One of the most common debates we hear in the drone industry is whether or not we should even call these things drones. It’s intimidating! Drones are so militaristic! It has a negative connotation!

Well, these drones don’t have the word drone in their names. Instead, they have delightful words like ‘Taco’ and ‘Cat’. Take a look at 5 drones (ranging from cute to creepy) that give new meaning to the name:

This Tacocopter.

Continue reading 5 prefixes that you would never think belong with drones

Drone-company funding may jump on FAA decision

The following piece is an excerpt from an article I wrote for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

The Federal Aviation Administration unveiled new proposed rules this week for the operation of commercial drones.

Until now, the use of drones was essentially banned unless the operator applied for a Section 333 permit, which requires a licensed pilot and a cumbersome process of about 120 days.

Under the new guidelines, drones could legally fly for commercial purposes if they travel below 500 feet during daylight hours and within sight of the operator, and as long as the pilot is age 17 or older and has passed a written test.

The rules would “provide probably the most flexible regime for unmanned aircraft, 55 pounds or less, that exists anywhere in the world,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said on a conference call on Sunday.

And with more flexible rules regarding commercial drones, some predict funding for drone startups will skyrocket. Funding for such enterprises has already increased 104% year-over-year, according to data from CB Insights.

CB Insights

 

“The time is now for investors to allow the drone industry to grow, especially drone-integration companies focused on providing whole solutions for organizations unfamiliar with the market,” said Vinny Capobianco, the co-founder of Flyspan Systems, a drone startup that provides systems-integration services.

Capobianco’s company is among the recent explosion of startups focused on advancing drones. Capobianco has spent the past year working on the commercial side, including projects that involve film, security and agriculture. His company recently opened a seed round of funding.

“A new age of aviation has begun that will accelerate rapidly over the next few years,” he said.

Between 2010 and 2012, there were fewer than five venture-capital deals with drone companies, according to CB Insights. Now, there are at least 10 companies with Series A funding or more.

“We’re clearly at the very beginning of a really big commercial opportunity. I’m not sure that we see unleashing of demand in the wake of the FAA’s proposed regulations. Rather, the demand for commercial uses seems like something that will steadily grow in the coming months and years,” said Eric Norlin of SK Ventures, which has backed companies such as drone manufacturer 3D Robotics and aerial-robotics platform Skycatch.

CB Insights

 

The world’s largest drone manufacturer, DJI, which generated 2013 sales of $130 million, said it is in talks with new investors for funding, according to a Bloomberg News report. The Chinese drone maker said its sales tripled last year and that the company is worth “significantly more” than the $1.6 billion valuation it received last year.

The following piece is an excerpt from an article I wrote for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

Pix4D’s Sonja Betschart on mapping Christ and girl power

Last week we wrote about Pix4D’s successful attempt at creating the first high resolution, 3D model of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janerio, said to be Brazil’s most important monument.

It’s a seemingly impossible project, but they did it. This week, we caught up with one of the project teammates, Sonja Betschart who also happens to be Pix4D’s Chief Marketing Officer.

Sonja on a Drone Adventures mission
Sonja on a Drone Adventures mission

Drone Girl: How did you get involved in the Rio project?
Sonja Betschart: I got contacted in early 2014 by a professor, Celso Santos, of the 3D lab of PUC University in Rio through DroneAdventures. The lab had been looking into how to get an accurate 3D model of the statue for over 15 years, including using laser scanners to do so. The project was just never feasible when it came to getting both results for the whole statue and affordable technology. When the professor saw one of our projects (mapping the Matterhorn in Switzerland with drones and Pix4D software), he hoped that this new technology would allow him to finally transform his dream into reality.

DG: What was the most challenging part in planning the project?
SB: The huge amount of data acquisition, which needed to be done in a very specific way with special hardware. Although DroneAdventures would have loved to do the project, they lacked the hardware and believed that Pix4D might be a better fit because of its specialization in this kind of data acquisition. We knew that we were in for an “all-around challenge” when it took us over 9 months just to get the approval to fly a drone on the heritage site, which belongs to the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.

Photo: Pix4D and Aeryon Labs
Photo: Pix4D and Aeryon Labs

DG: Why did it take 9 months to get approval?

SB: Flying drones is always tied with local legislation. To fly a drone in Brazil, one needs approval from the local government. The local government would only give us the necessary permission to fly our drone if the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, to whom the site of the Christ the Redeemer statue belongs, also gave us permission from their side.

DG: What was it like once you were actually on site?

SB: Amazing and very emotional! When you plan such a unique project for over 9 months and are in contact with the local partners without knowing them in person, it was a very emotional day when we finally met in person and came all together at the base of the Christ statue, to do our “onsite reconnaissance” on the first day. We were all overly excited, but also felt that this was only the beginning of our adventure. We had planned out the whole mission in detail over the previous months and being on site confirmed once more that you can plan all you want, in the end, plans will change and possibly many things will not go according to plan.

DG: And how was the wind up there?

Continue reading Pix4D’s Sonja Betschart on mapping Christ and girl power