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 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 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.
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 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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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!