Tag Archives: featured

U.S. finally approves certain companies to test drone delivery, but Amazon wasn’t chosen

This is an excerpt of a piece originally written for MarketWatch.com. Read the full version here.

More than four years ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos promised in an interview that aired on “60 Minutes” that drones would be delivering small items to people’s homes within a half hour of the order being placed.

“I know this looks like science fiction,” he said. “It’s not.”

At the time, he said drone deliveries could happen as early as 2015, but more realistically within four to five years (which would have been 2017 or 2018).

More than four years later, the thought of Amazon drones landing at your doorstep is still a lot more like science fiction than reality.

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced the names of the 10 state and local governments that it has selected to conduct flight tests as part of its new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. The program pairs governments up with private companies to test types of drone flights that are currently banned in the U.S., including flying drones at night, flying over people and, yes, package delivery. Continue reading U.S. finally approves certain companies to test drone delivery, but Amazon wasn’t chosen

Everything you need to know about the FAA’s drone pilot program, including Uber, Google and lots of drone delivery

The Federal Aviation Administration today announced the 10 state, local and tribal governments it has selected to be a part of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program. — and it is set to involve high-profile companies including Google and Uber.

The drone pilot program pairs governments up with private companies to test types of drone flights that are currently banned in the U.S., including flying drones at night, flying over people and package delivery.

The FAA’s drone pilot program, formally called the UAS Integration Pilot Program, was announced in October by U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. Originally, only five sites were going to be chosen, though ultimately 10 were picked. About 150 sites applied to be a part of the program, according to the FAA. Continue reading Everything you need to know about the FAA’s drone pilot program, including Uber, Google and lots of drone delivery

ESPN still bullish on drone racing as it gives green light to DRL season 3

The world of drone racing is still going strong, as ESPN announced that it has signed on the Drone Racing League for a third season.

DRL season 3 will premiere on ESPN on Sept. 6, showcasing drone pilots racing around different high-profile spots around the world, including the BMW Welt and the Adventuredome, a five-acre indoor amusement park at the Circus Circus Hotel in Las Vegas.

The TV series will feature 18 FPV pilots, racing to be crowned number one. They’ll race in three rounds (ranking, semi-finals and finals) over a series of 1-minute heats. They’ll be ranked based on times. The top racers will be invited to the  2018 DRL Allianz World Championship event in Saudi Arabia.DRL espn drone racing league fpv

The decision to host the final drone race of DRL season 3 in Saudi Arabia drone race has been controversial for the drone community. This is the first time a professional drone race will have been staged in the country, which is known for being unwelcoming toward minorities including women and the LGBTQ community. Continue reading ESPN still bullish on drone racing as it gives green light to DRL season 3

DJI wants you to know that its drones data practices are totally secure

In an era where fears of companies tracking user data are increasingly growing, Chinese drone manufacturer DJI has made another push to say the data collected from its drones is totally safe. The news comes in the midst of rumors that DJI was transmitted sensitive user data to China.

The world’s largest drone manufacturer this week released the results of an independent report which concluded that customer data collected by DJI drones is secure.

Consulting firm Kiva conducted a study of DJI drones in the U.S. last year, confirmed that for some types of data (such as media files and flight logs), DJI did not access photos, videos or flight logs generated by the drones unless drone operators voluntarily chose to share them. For other types of data (such as initial location checks or diagnostic data), the user could prevent transmission by deactivating settings in the app or via disabling the Internet connection. Continue reading DJI wants you to know that its drones data practices are totally secure

Apple security cracks down on drone pilot who shoots epic Apple campus videos

Apple security doesn’t want you flying drones over their campus — which means the days of those sweet drone videos of the iPhone maker’s spaceship-like campus may be over.

Drone pilot Duncan Sinfield, who has been producing videos about twice a month that give aerial tour updates of the progress on the Apple Park, says his videos may be coming to an end.

During recent flights, the Apple security team has been catching him flying his drone and subsequently been asking him to leave, according to a post on Sinfield’s YouTube account today.

“Security at Apple Park generally responds in two white Prius’s to my precise take-off locations in 10 minutes or less,” Sinfield wrote. “As always, I respect all requests by Apple Security to land my drone and leave the area when asked to do so.”

“My instincts tell me that Apple is tracking all drones in the vicinity of the campus with sophisticated radio frequency technology from companies such as Dedrone,” Sinfield added. Continue reading Apple security cracks down on drone pilot who shoots epic Apple campus videos

New DJI XT2 integrates thermal camera with enterprise drones, further proving integration is key to making drones useful

When it was released in 2013, the original DJI Phantom was a remarkable drone, except for one big problem: you couldn’t see what the drone’s camera was seeing in real-time, meaning you were flying blind until you landed, unmounted the GoPro and uploaded its SD card to your computer. It was an awkward and clunky process that made for lots of missed photo opportunities and cumbersome fiddling of gear.

When the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ came out, aerial photography changed. When the camera is seamlessly integrated into the drone so it can be controlled and viewed in real time, photos not only get better, but new applications come about: spotting poachers over wildlife reserves, rescuing lost hikers or detecting where flames are in a burning building.

Today, DJI is doing for thermal camera-toting, enterprise drones what it did for the DJI Phantom. The Chinese drone manufacturer on Tuesday released the Zenmuse XT2 thermal imaging camera created in partnership with thermal camera maker FLIR Systems. The Zenmuse XT2 improves upon the existing Zenmuse XT camera, which was an Infrared camera designed to be integrated with DJI’s line of drones, by including not just the infrared camera, but a dual sensor to show a traditional 4K video feed in real-time as well. Continue reading New DJI XT2 integrates thermal camera with enterprise drones, further proving integration is key to making drones useful

Flying a drone near an airport is about to get a lot easier as FAA’s LAANC program extends to 500 airports

Want to fly a drone in a specific area, but can’t because the drone is too close to an airport?

It is currently illegal for commercial drone pilots to fly in restricted airspace (which typically occurs within 5 miles of an airport) without permission, and getting approval had been a lengthy, paperwork-ridden process that could take months. That made situations like police monitoring crowds during a protest, electric companies inspecting a problem with a power line or first responders trying to find lost hikers impossible, should those drone flights occur near an airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration is taking note — and making it easier to get nearly-instant approval to fly drones near about 500 airports.

The FAA at the 2018 FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland today announced that it would expand its tests of its real-time approval processing program to 500 airports by the fall of this year.

The tests are a part of the FAA’s  Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program, which began last November at just a handful of air traffic facilities. The LAANC program allowed drone operators to use an interface from one of four providers that were hand-picked by the FAA — AirMap, Project Wing (an entity of X, formerly known as Google), Rockwell Collins and Skyward — to request approval to fly in restricted airspace. Operators would then receive approval almost instantly.

The expansion will begin in April, with the FAA releasing a new region each month. Here is the order of when each region will get the LAANC program:

  • April 30: South Central USA
  • May 24: Western North USA
  • June 21: Western South USA
  • July 19: Eastern South USA
  • August 16: Eastern North USA
  • September 13: Central North USA

The airspace authorization will be rolled out to nearly 300 air traffic control facilities, which collectively represent about 500 airports across the U.S. That means 78,000 miles of airspace will be opened up to commercial drone operations once the program is fully rolled out.

The FAA today also announced that it is accepting applications for other companies to become a LAANC service provider. That could ease up concerns that the ability for private companies to control the airspace is becoming an “ole boys club.”

Some industry players feared that the FAA selecting just 4 companies to provide such a service with no clear criteria of how to get chosen was a threat to other companies, particular small startups with minimal resources. Continue reading Flying a drone near an airport is about to get a lot easier as FAA’s LAANC program extends to 500 airports

The DJI Mavic Air is a mix between the Mavic Pro and DJI Spark — and it’s absolutely perfect

When the DJI Mavic Pro came out, I thought that DJI had reached peak perfection with a drone. Boy, was I wrong. The DJI Mavic Air is way better than the DJI Mavic Pro.

The DJI Mavic Air combines the best of both worlds of the Mavic Pro and Spark. It’s about the size of a Spark in flight, but folds up like the Mavic Pro to become even smaller. It has the Spark’s nifty gesture control, but it also has the Mavic Pro’s 4K video.dji mavic air

And best of all, while it’s a huge improvement over the Mavic Pro, it’s $799 — less than the price the Mavic Pro was when it launched.

The Mavic Air is incredibly small and nimble. It’s about 8 inches diagonally across, and it weighs less than a pound. It makes the Mavic Pro look kind of huge — which is surprising given how small the Mavic Pro felt when it was announced.

DJI Mavic Pro vs. Mavic Air

The DJI Mavic Air can fly for just over 20 minutes on one battery. It comes in three colors — white, red or black. There are also sensor improvements, with a sensor that detects objects on both the front AND back of the drone. That’s amazing processing power, given how small this drone is.

There is a sensor on the back too.

DJI also made some improvements to its camera technology with the Mavic Air, including removing the delay in the shutter when it is triggered, and better highlight and lowlight details.  The drone also has TapFly and ActiveTrack features, along with improvements such as “TapFly Backward Mode.”dji mavic air

The Mavic Air also comes with two big changes to the RC transmitter. The transmitter doesn’t have a built-in screen like the Mavic Pro does, alerting you of things like battery life, flight modes, etc. It pretty much guarantees that in order to use the Mavic Air, you’ll need to rely on a smartphone app to translate what all the various beeps mean while in flight.

The removable joysticks are really interesting. At first, I thought, “huh?” Now I love them!

The other major change is that the joysticks on the RC transmitter can actually be removed. At first I was a little surprised by the decision to make the joysticks removable. “Is this REALLY necessary?” I thought. Turns out, it really helps when packing the drone away.

However, those little joysticks can get lost super easily. I’ve already had one small heart attack over losing them — though the easy solution for forgetful folk is to simply never unscrew them.

I still don’t love how my iPhone fits in the RC transmitter. Can this be fixed in the next Mavic?

That being said, I’ll still withhold the title of “perfect” on this drone, because there are some issues I’ve found in my year of flying the Mavic Pro that still haven’t been fixed with the Mavic Air. Namely, the RC transmitter. DJI’s drone design is simply flawless, but it seems that care given to the drone itself has been ignored on the RC transmitter. The spot to hold an iPhone just doesn’t quite fit perfect. It’s clunky to tap the iPhone’s home button when the phone is connected to the transmitter. Most phone cases must also be removed to connect them. Maybe Android users are exempt from the RC transmitter issues (I’ve never used one with a drone!) but the user experience connecting an iPhone to the drone just isn’t quite there — and never improved upon with the Mavic Air.

I love the DJI Mavic Air!

The DJI Mavic Air is the second drone I’ve ever reviewed that I thought that I’ve truly, 100% fallen in love with. (The first was the Mavic Pro). It’s a drone everyone needs. It’s easy to fly, takes gorgeous images and even more portable than the Mavic Pro.

I can’t wait for you to get your hands on it. Happy flying!

Pre-order your Mavic Air here.