Disney may use drones in theme park entertainment

The following piece was originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the full story here.

Drones may be going to Disneyland.

Though they may sound like they could exist only in Tomorrowland, Disney is working on ways to use drones in its entertainment productions.disneyland drone patent

Disney applied for three UAV-related patents, indicating that drones could hold marionette or projection screens for nighttime entertainment.

“The inventors recognized that presently there are no mechanisms for creating very large aerial displays such as a display that is reusable/repeatable, dynamic, and interactive,” the patent states.

To address that need, Disney’s R&D department is working to create a multi-drone aerial display system and a ground control station that could choreograph repeatable movements.

The three applications are:

With the drones, larger-than-life puppets could be mounted with rods to fly through the air above Disneyland.

jack skellington drone patent drawing

“This is a significant improvement over prior flying characters, which typically were provided in the form of parade or other blimps/balloons filled with hot air or other gases and that had little and/or awkward articulation of any movable parts,” according to the patent.

The patent indicates that drones could even potentially replace fireworks, which can be dangerous and inconsistent. Instead, the patent calls for an aerial display system based on the floating pixel, or “flixel.” Each drone would carry a lighting assembly that could display images or colors, making use of the sky as a screen.

Read the rest of the story on MarketWatch.com.

DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of

This story was originally written for Air-Vid.com. Read the entire story here.

Aerial photographer Shane Latham can tell you that. He’s the Founder of Octofilms, he’s one of 10 DJI-sponsored pilots (and the only one in the U.S.), and he’s the only pilot in the U.S. to own a DJI S900.

Latham  already has a DJI S800 EVO, S1000 and has now added the S900 to his toolkit.

“The S900 the size of the S800 but with collapsible arms,” Latham is quick to point out.

The 3.3 kg hexacopter has foldable arms and is one of the lightest and easily to transport of the expert-level drones.

“The s900 is the new generation,” said DJI’s Marketing Manager Willis Chung.

Much of the weight reduction is in the arms and landing gear, made of carbon fiber.

“You can tell the weight loss right when you pick it up,” Latham said.

Latham’s favorite aspect of the S900? The removable top.

“It’s genius,” Latham said. “The top has a star pattern plate where you remove just 5-6 without having to take apart the frame.”

The S900 features an upper center board that can be removed, making an easy way to setup the power distribution system.

“Now you can easily remove the top, get down there, make any changes you need to do then put the top back on and you’re ready to go,” Latham said. “You can see and organize all your wires.”

Some other highlights of the S900:

  • Sparkproof plug to prevent short circuits
  • 18 minute flight time
  • 8.2 kg takeoff weight
  • Zenmuse gimbal compatible

“It’s like they listened to a lot of things users were asking for,” Latham said. Continue reading DJI S900’s ultra light weight is nothing to make light of

Ask Drone Girl: What’s a good first drone for video?

This is the first question in a new series called Ask Drone Girl. Got a question for Drone Girl? Email it to me!

*This question has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Question:

Hi Sally,

I feel overwhelmed.  I am just beginning to learn about Aerial Photography/Videography with drones. I want to make sure I buy the right one that will suit my needs. (Quick back story- I am going to buy my first mini-quad (hudsan x4) on Friday, so that I can start learning to fly.  And in a couple of weeks, I want to buy my first Quadcopter.  I participate in an organization that will have a retreat in August.  They always do a group photo and promotional videos and what better way to do it this year than with shots from the air.  For now I want a drone that will grow with me.  Any advice?
Sincerely,
Lois
Answer:

 

Thanks for the email! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, because there are so many drones out there! A lot of what I can recommend depends on what your goals are with your drone.
First, I would start by looking at the Drone Configurator. This will help narrow down products within your price range, ability and intended use. Secondly, I think it’s great that you want to practice on a mini-quad. It’s much better when that flies into a big tree and gets stuck rather than a quad in the $1000 range!

Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: What’s a good first drone for video?

The four kinds of drone geeks

This post was originally written by me for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire, original version of the story there.

I was one credit away from graduating college when I first learned what a drone was. It’s not just something for the military, and it’s not something far off in the future.

It’s actually something you can buy for a few hundred dollars at Brookstone or B&H Photo, and it’s something that college campuses are turning into curriculum.

To graduate, I audited a course for one credit on drone journalism. That’s a course where they teach how newsrooms will one day all have drones to take pictures or gather news information from the air.

Media often portrays this new wave of drones as a mechanism of tracking endangered rhinos or shooting Hollywood films. But when I moved from rural Missouri to San Francisco, I found that drones weren’t actually that uncommon. For a growing number of people, they’re a way of life.

They fly over outdoor concerts. Two friends texted me that they saw a drone flying over this year’s commencement ceremony at UC Berkeley. I’ve spotted one outside my apartment complex. Drones are becoming more ubiquitous and easy to spot; the key is finding the operator behind it.

So who is flying them? Like most areas of tech, the drone industry is overwhelmingly male. And many people have different reasons for using a drone. If there was a Breakfast Club sequel solely for drones, this would be the cast.

The tinkerer. He’s an avid participator on a forum for RC enthusiasts. He built his drone himself in a garage using some PVC pipes and an Arduino. He probably belongs to a model RC club and flies it above the high school track on weekends to test out his latest build.

That guy with too much money. He wants a Tesla. He camped out in front of the Apple Store for an iPhone. Now he flies a drone. He’s the guy who foregoes the camera-with-a-timer-on-a-tripod trick to take family photos. His Christmas card picture was taken with a drone. After he finishes his sand volleyball tournament, he goes to take some pictures of the beach, using a drone of course.

The entrepreneur. He has a million ideas for a new startup that involves a drone. Beer delivery? Dry cleaning delivery? Taco delivery? His investment cost was no more than the $1000 price tag on a drone. Perhaps one day his business will be worth as much as Snapchat.

This story continues on MarketWatch.com. Read it here.

The perfect solution for when all your friends ask you what drone they should buy

I know it’s happened to you. Someone knows you have a drone, and suddenly they want one. But instead of researching it themselves, they ask you what to buy.

“My budget is, like, $200.”

“It has to be a really good drone though.”

“Like, it has to take high-quality pictures.”

“But like, how long is the battery life?”

“Ok maybe I’ll up my budget to no more than $400..but only if you insist.”

guide

And in flies Drone Configurator. It was created by my friends at Drone Life. Simply select the type from a series of choices including price range, camera, application and type, and the database sorts through more than 200 models of drones to help you find one based on your criteria.

Happy flying (and buying)!

Martha Stewart releases drone-generated images of her farm

They’re no fireworks, but Martha Stewart posted new pictures of her farm to her blog — and naturally they were taken with a drone.

The pictures were taken by one of her security detail, Dominic Arena, who recently purchased a DJI Phantom, Stewart wrote on her blog.

“These drone-like, radio controlled aircraft are lots of fun to play with and they take extraordinary photos,” she wrote. “However,  controlling them takes practice and getting used to.  Since my farm has lots of open fields, Dominic thought it would be the best place to get acquainted with his new toy.”

See more photos and read the rest of her post over on her blog.

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3 drones that happened because of Kickstarter

Sure, a potato salad has generated $30,000 in pledges on Kickstarter. But drones have landed on Kickstarter too, and many have been quite successful. Here are 4 drones that exist because of Kickstarter:

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The Pocket Dronethis multicopter is powerful enough to carry a GoPro and folds up smaller than a 7 -inch tablet. The 1-pound drone works out of the box and offers 20 minutes of flight-time. This drone looks like an awesome tool to fit inside a purse or backpack to have for on the fly aerial photography. According to its website, the drone will ship late summer 2014. If you missed your chance to pledge in the Kickstarter, the drone now sells online for $549 + shipping.

Number of Backers: 1,946

Goal: $35,000

Amount pledged: $929,212

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AirDogthis small, foldable quadcopter holds a GoPro and markets itself as “the world’s first auto-follow drone for GoPro camera” — sort of like a dog. There’s also an AirLeash, a small waterproof computerized tracker that sends signals to the AirDog, indicating exact movement trajectory. An alarm on the AirLeash indicates low battery and the drone automatically lands and takes-off.

The pictures on the drone show slightly different colors…I’m hoping this means an interchangeable body and arms…rainbow drones, anyone?

Number of Backers: 771

Goal: $200,000

Amount pledged: $704,310 Continue reading 3 drones that happened because of Kickstarter

Are drones illegal in your state? This map can tell you.

This post was originally written by me for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire, original version of the story there.

As the federal government decides how to regulate drones in the U.S., states are moving on their own. Check out the status of drone legislation in your state here.

There is currently no federal regulation of unmanned aircraft, but Congress passed a law two years ago ordering the FAA to issue national rules legalizing drones for commercial purposes by September 2015.

In 2011, the FAA penalized drone videographer Rapheal Pirker $10,000 for using a drone. Pirker challenged the fine, and a federal administrative-law judge overturned the penalty, saying there was no law banning the commercial use of small drones.

The FAA on Monday released its interpretation of rules for model aircraft after recent incidents involving reckless use of drones. The FAA states that hobby or recreational flying doesn’t require FAA approval, but recommends following their safety guidelines, which encourage contacting the airport operator when flying within 5 miles of an airport, not flying near manned aircraft or beyond the operator’s line of sight. It also specifies model aircraft as weighing fewer than 55 lbs.

Read the rest of the story at its original location on MarketWatch.com.