Old MacDonald had a drone: the case for legalizing drones in farming

By Sacha Marie

We’ve all seen or read comparisons of drones like the Phantom 3 vs Phantom 2, arguments for GoPros vs built-in cameras, or the trending uses for drones such as wedding photography. While it’s all very much relevant, environmental uses for drones are becoming more prominent; specifically in farming.

A drone flies over vineyards of the Pape Clement castle, belonging to Bordeaux winemaker Bernard Magrez in the soutwestern French town of Pessac. JEAN PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images
A drone flies over vineyards of the Pape Clement castle, belonging to Bordeaux winemaker Bernard Magrez in the soutwestern French town of Pessac. JEAN PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images

The software

Farmers are starting to use drones for monitoring crops and using them to detect and prevent problems. Drones give farmers the ability to gain immediate knowledge about their fields, minimizing time needed to sort the problem then fix it.

Drones have become more specific to agriculture, coming with various types of sensors for temperature, plant surveillance, even water quality assessments.

What’s new?

The development for these types of drones have advanced, coming out with precision drones specifically for farming. Like their DJI counterparts, these drones will be able to be equipped with different cameras for different sensors.

The idea behind having advanced sensors is that it will give farmers the ability to increase productivity and reduce crop damage. Drones have the ability to see what farmers can’t, and they can do work at a faster rate. It also gives farmers the ability to be specific and pinpoint problems instead of having to treat the entire crop.

However recent updates will have sensors built into the drones themselves. Agricultural specific drones will also have sensors to track and keep stats on livestock, much like the drones being used to help track wildlife and prevent poaching.

The future for farmers

Agriculture is a prominent field, with technologies that are going to help make supplies more sustainable for a growing world. Drones can help give accurate results and collect data not otherwise able to collect through manual work. So, while technology is catching up to the needs of agriculture workers, the FAA rules and regulations are just barely getting there.

Commercial uses for drones in gathering information are still against the rules and regulations, unless you apply for exemptions, and even then the exemptions come with heavy guidelines. Basically, use of these types of drones is no longer ‘illegal’, but gaining an exemption is a hefty process. Unfortunately, this leaves farmers little options for using drones unless they’re approved. It’s asking our agricultural workers to put progress on hold and stay in the past.

Where do you see the future of drones in agriculture and farming going? What are your thoughts on the FAA’s stance on these drones? And how do you think it could improve?

Exclusive interview with CEO of Yuneec: the drone industry’s ‘dark horse’

This is an excerpt of a story originally written by Sally French for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

MW-DU007_yuneec_20150910220521_ZHIn the consumer drone industry, Chinese drone manufacturer DJI is king. But another company has suddenly emerged as a major competitor.

Weeks after announcing a $60 million funding round from Intel, Yuneec is set to announce its first professional quality drone aimed at aerial photographers. The $4,999 Tornado H920 will allow up to 42 minutes of flight time – nearly unheard of in the drone industry. The Tornado comes just months after Yuneec’s first foray into drones with the lower-priced Typhoon model aimed more at hobbyists.

Yuneec worked with Panasonic to create a camera specifically for the Tornado with 3x optical zoom, allowing pilots to control it from the ground.

MW-DU078_yuneec_20150911153202_ZHDJI, the world’s largest consumer drone maker, is also bringing new products to market that indicate it’s aiming to dominate on professional-grade drones. It announced Thursday two new cameras for the company’s Inspire 1 drone that will allow super high-resolution imagery and are geared toward the enterprise consumer. DJI is expected to exceed $1 billion in sales this year and raised a $75 million investment in May, valuing the business at $8 billion.

But Shan Phillips, CEO of the U.S. branch of Yuneec, isn’t concerned about the competition. “The industry is big enough that there’s room for more of us,” he said. “What we want to be is the feisty number two.”

His bigger concern? Just getting Yuneec’s name out there.

Few people have heard of Yuneec — even in the relatively insular world of drones — or know how to pronounce it for that matter. (For the record, “It’s like ‘unique,’ ” Phillips said.)

Read the rest of this story here.

DJi’s newest hot product isn’t actually a drone

The following article is an excerpt of a piece originally written by Sally French for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.MW-DU006_djicam_20150910210935_ZH (1)

The next step in the evolution of drones may not be about the actual vehicle; it may be more about the attached camera.

At least that’s what the latest news from the world’s largest drone manufacturer, DJI, indicates.

DJI on Thursday announced two new interchangeable-lens cameras designed for the company’s Inspire 1 professional model drone: the X5 ($4,499) and X5R ($7,999). Both prices include the camera and Inspire 1 drone.

The cameras make DJI’s Inspire 1 the first commercially available drone featuring a micro four thirds sensor, which will allow for much higher resolution imagery. Specifically, the larger sensor will allow aerial photographers the ability to capture up to 13 stops, making high-resolution 4K video in low-light environments possible.

The new cameras will mean a huge leap forward in image quality for those using drones for professional videography and for enterprise customers who require a drone to show thermal imaging or generate 3D maps.

“Big pixels are important because there’s more surface area to collect photons,” said Eric Cheng, DJI’s director of aerial imaging, during the announcement at InterDrone in Las Vegas. “That means you get higher dynamic range.”

The more advanced X5R model will record video to both a microSD card and a solid-state disk to record CinemaDNG (RAW) video, allowing for higher-quality video.

Read the rest of this story here.

REVIEW: Lowepro introduces compact drone case

Lowepro DroneGuard drone case

This year’s hottest new drone item might not actually be the drones themselves, but the cases that carry them. The newest case to the market, the Lowepro DroneGuard series, is another high-quality case to enter the competition.

Lowepro has a history of making camera equipment cases and today announced a three-piece collection of cases designed for the Parrot Bebop, DJI Phantom 1, 2 and 3, 3DR Solo and other similarly sized quadcopters, with dedicated space and organization for accessories such as blades, props, mounts, cables and batteries.

The CS 300 is sized for the Parrot Bebop, while the CS 400  is designed for larger drones such as the Phantom. I tested out the CS 400 with my Phantom 1.

lowepro droneguard

The cases  are constructed of tough 600 denier polyester and use what the company refers to as “Lowepro’s FormShell technology for superior impact protection without added bulk or weight.”

The cases also come with removable backpack straps and dividers.

I’m a tiny person (4’10”) and I like this case because, while it’s big enough to transport my Phantom without even having to take off the propellers, it doesn’t seem bulky on my small frame. The rounded edges help give the case a softer look, but the case is most certainly large enough to hold batteries, an RC transmitter and anything else you would want to bring (I’m thinking snacks).

lowepro drone case
Lowepro (left) and ThinkTank (right)

Until the last year or two it had been pretty impossible to find a good drone case. I had been partial to Think Tank Photo’s Airport Helipak, but it’s much larger, and comes with a steeper price tag.

For the super-budget conscious, Lowepro also manufactures a DroneGuard Kit, essentially an ultra-portable tray rather than a case, but with grab handles and a rigid, durable base and honeycomb interior.

The Lowepro is a great option for someone looking for a relatively low-cost way to carry a drone in a safe, sturdy case without feeling too bulky. It’s light, smartly designed and makes drone transportation easy. Happy flying!

lowepro drone case phantom

 

Apple Store now sells DJI Phantom drones

This is an excerpt from a story originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

apple dji phantomIn addition to iPhones, iPads and iPods, you can now buy drones from the Apple Store. But they’re not iDrones just yet.

The Apple Store began selling Tuesday the ‘Phantom 3’ line of drones created by SZ DJI Technology Co., commonly known as DJI. DJI is the world’s top maker of consumer drones and is expected to exceed $1 billion in sales this year, compared with $130 million in 2013. The Chinese company raised a $75 million investment in May that valuing the business at $8 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Apple Inc. will sell the DJI Phantom 3 Professional Camera Drone for $1,259.95 online and in retail stores across the U.S. The machine shoots 4K video, can fly at a maximum altitude of 6,000 meters above sea level and has a 23 minute flight time. The tech giant also offers the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Drone, which has a slightly lesser camera, for $999.95.

The drones aren’t unique to the Apple Store and have been sold for years on sites such as Amazon.com Inc. and B&H Photo. DJI released the first line of Phantoms in January 2013.

Read the rest of this story here.

Ask Drone Girl: How do I fly my drone over an event?

Photo screen grab from The Drone Dudes

Here’s the next installment of Ask Drone Girl. Got a question for her? Send your email here.

Question

Hi Drone Girl,

My name is Laura and my son and his cousin started a droning business in Michigan about a year ago. Recently they were asked to drone a festival in our town, Lake Orion, and they readily accepted needing the exposure. I have a question…have you ever filmed a festival or in an area with large crowds. How do you launch your drone? Do you cordon off an area or have a launch pad? We’re worried about the thousands of people milling around the area and the danger of the blades of the drone.

Thank you,
Laura

P.S. the boys company is insured.

Answer

Hey Laura,

This is a great question, and I’m glad you have safety first in mind! Flying over people is tricky. Take the exposure, and give exposure to safe drone flying practices while you’re at it.

I have filmed in large crowds, and it’s tricky! People love to come up to you and talk to you about what you’re doing, and while it’s easy to want to be friendly and have a chat, you also need to focus. I photographed a crowd with a drone flying over Crissy Broadcast in The Presidio for The San Francisco Chronicle. Luckily at this event there weren’t too many people, so I was able to stand away from people in a grassy area to launch, without having to cordon off an area. Most drone injuries happen during takeoff and landing, so Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: How do I fly my drone over an event?