DJI’s Phantom 4 is here — and incredible

This is an excerpt of a story originally written for Read the entire piece here.

DJI has unveiled its smartest drone yet: it’s the first consumer drone to have the ability to sense and avoid obstacles and marks a huge leap in preventing drone crashes.

DJI’s Phantom 4 drone, unveiled Tuesday, has two forward-facing optical sensors that can scan for obstacles and automatically direct the drone to fly above the obstacle to avoid it. If it can’t fly above the obstacle (for example, a roof overhead or the object is simply too tall) the drone will hover in front of the object until it is manually redirected.

The drone will sell for $1,399 on DJI’s website, but otherwise will be available only through the Apple Store from March 15 to March 29. Continue reading DJI’s Phantom 4 is here — and incredible

Meet the filmmakers behind ‘Drona’

The Bay Area Drone Film Festival is set for this Sunday in Silicon Valley. Ahead of the festival, we caught up with Chafic Saad and Kris Lee, founders of Kind Motion Pictures and the creators of ‘Drona,’ one of the nominees for the Narrative/Statement/Cause category of the festival.

Drone Girl: What is your film about?

Chafic Saad: It’s centered around Kecak, which started in the 1930s as a secular art form made for tourists in Bali as a local type of entertainment. The film was made in Bali and grew off that. Every village has a different style of Kecak where they sit in a circle and do different types of chanting.

Photo courtesy of Chafic Saad
Photo courtesy of Chafic Saad

DG: How were you able to get the access to shoot this?

Kris Lee: We went for the 7th International Body Music Festival, which was in Bali this past year. We got in touch with the founders, and we got the green light.

DG: It was that easy?

CS: When we first started filming Kecak we realized it was very loud, and Kecak is vocal music. When we were filming it was a little too loud and we were asked to land it. We felt defeated at that point. We came this far, we landed the drone into Bali and now we can’t film. Continue reading Meet the filmmakers behind ‘Drona’

Meet the woman whose project uses drones to study El Nino’s impact on California

Earlier this week we told you about the Nature Conservancy’s Phones and Drones volunteer project. Now, meet one of the women behind the project.

As El Nino hits the West Coast, it’s a prime time for scientists to use the weather patterns as a crystal ball for future climate change. Tides are higher, and there are more storms. The Nature Conservancy’s Sarah Newkirk is spearheading a project that looks at the coast line using images from drones, shot by “citizen scientists” — essentially anyone with a drone.

For drone operators interested in volunteering with the project, visit this site.

Sarah Newkirk

Drone Girl: Why did this project come about?

SN: I direct the California Coastal Project at the Nature Conservancy of California, and our job is to  makes sure we still have natural shorelines, but we have a land development threat. Our communities are growing, but there is sea level rise, so coastal habitats are getting squeezed out of existence.

DG: So what’s your role?

SN: We’re working to help communities and decision makers make wise decisions about using natural resources rather than sea walls.  Sometimes that means restoring wetlands, getting infrastructure off the coast. It also means understanding how sea level rise and climate driven coastal change impact how we go about this. It’s a conservation problem in 4 dimensions — latitude, longigtue, altitude and time. It’s not about our coastline today, but tomorrow.

DG: What’s the project you are doing now with drones? Continue reading Meet the woman whose project uses drones to study El Nino’s impact on California

Drone video shows ‘ghost town’ Mount Rushmore

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Instagram/Abandoned Earth

Somewhere in Virginia, a field is home to 43 crumbling presidential statues. It’s like a ghost town version of Mount Rushmore.

The sculptures were originally built for Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Virginia, an open-air museum that opened in 2004 but closed six years later. A man named Howard Hankins saved the statues from the crusher and moved them to his farm in Croaker, Virginia. Continue reading Drone video shows ‘ghost town’ Mount Rushmore

How to create maps using drones? Here’s your go-to guide

51TE0B2K6wLLooking to use your drone for something other than spying on your neighbors taking cool pictures?

One of the key value propositions of a drone is photogrammetry. Drones have turned the process of gathering aerial images needed to create 3D maps into something inexpensive and for a wide range of applications — precision agriculture, natural disaster assessment, pollution monitoring and facility inspections. But it’s also daunting; how do you start this with something simple like a DJI Phantom? Continue reading How to create maps using drones? Here’s your go-to guide

Volunteers are using drones to monitor the impacts of El Nino on California’s coastline

As El Nino hits California, drones are heading into the air — documenting the impacts of the rainfall on California’s coastline.

DroneDeploy Orthomosaic Example
Courtesy of Eric Cheng

With El Nino comes surge in storms, coastal flooding and erosion. And the pace of shoreline change is rapidly speeding, meaning that the sea level rise and storms could destroy natural habitats and our own infrastructure. Drones can generate aerial data that documents those changes, allowing scientists to make decisions.

The Nature Conservancy launched a “Phones and Drones” project, giving any  volunteer with a drone the opportunity to help gather data about the coastal impacts of big storm events, with the purposes of improving predictive models and planning responses that protect people and nature. Effectively anyone with a drone can become a citizen scientist. Continue reading Volunteers are using drones to monitor the impacts of El Nino on California’s coastline

Drone-flying, hoverboard Barbie is here


This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for

Mattel recently made a huge step toward refreshing Barbie’s old-fashioned image with a lineup of new Barbies with a variety of body types, skin tones and hairstyles.

Now, Barbie is flying into the future. Literally.

Mattel revealed at the 2016 International Toy Fair in New York the latest incarnation of Barbie — clad in pink, yes, but also riding a hoverboard that’s actually a real drone. The new doll is called Barbie Star Light Adventure RC Hoverboard (RC stands for remote controlled).

the toy into the air with an automatic feature that allows the drone to take off and land with the press of a button. The toy will arrive in stores fall 2016 and sell for $59.99.

The toy could encourage more young girls to have an interest in robotics and aviation.

“This will certainly attract young girls, but also parents who want to buy a toy for their daughters that would interest them in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) realm but aren’t sure what type of toy would inspire that,” said Rhianna Lakin, founder of the group Amelia Dronehart, a group for female drone pilots. Continue reading Drone-flying, hoverboard Barbie is here

DJI Phantom 3 Professional now costs less than $1,000

DJI just launched new pricing on its Phantom 3 Professional.

At $999, the Phantom, which originally priced at $1,259, is an even better deal than Black Friday, when it was going for $1,159.


Features of the Professional include:

  • Included 4K Video / 12 Megapixel Photo Camera
  • Integrated 3-Axis Stabilization Gimbal
  • Easy to Fly, Intelligent Flight System
  • Live HD View
  • Dedicated Remote Controller
  • Powerful Mobile App w/ Auto Video Editor
  • Vision Positioning for Indoor Flight
  • And free same-day delivery!

If you’re thinking about buying one, help support Drone Girl and purchase through this link.