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M.A.R.S. Parachutes – How to save your equipment

Dear friends, Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire. As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only. Enjoy! Couple of weeks ago, I […]

DJI Spreading Wings S900

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

DJI Innovations keeps pushing new products into the market. Market leader in flying camera technology recently introduced Ground Station for its Phantom 2 Vision and Drop Safe parachute system (ok, not on the shelf yet, but is coming). This time it is an impressive hexacopter drone, named Spreading Wings S900.

DJI Spreading Wings S900

DJI Spreading Wings S900

It is an improved hybrid of Spreading Wings S800 and S1000. It borrows hexacopter layout from S800 and collapsible arms feature from S1000. Its arms and landing gear are made of carbon fiber, reducing the weight and improving the strength at the same time. Foldable arms are enabling easy transport and portability, something valued by aerial filming professionals. It can be assembled and ready to fly in 5 minutes.

Upper center board is removable, allowing easy access and a convenient way to set up power distribution system or to install DJI Lightbridge video downlink. The S900 fully supports the Zenmuse Z15, GH3, GH4, and BMPCC gimbals. The gimbal bracket is separated from the main frame by specifically designed dampers, reducing unwanted vibrations.

Removable Upper Center Board

Removable Upper Center Board

The S900 weighs 3.3 kg and has a maximum take off weight of 8.2 kg. Simple math gives a useful payload capacity of 4.9 kg, allowing it to carry most cameras and gimbals. 6S 12000mAh battery allows a flight time of up to 18 minutes.

The price of the new DJI flyer is up to $3.800, depending on flight controller and gimbal options.

Detailed  information about DJI Spreading Wings S900, user manual and S900 release notes can be found on official DJI webpage.

Awesome article and an interview with the first UAV pilot to fly S900 in the US can be found at Drone Girl‘s blog.

Video and images courtesy of DJI.

Another successful Kickstarter campaign

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

After a short break caused by family gatherings, dronologista is back with some good news. Another Kickstarter project that was featured here, Maps Made Easy, got successfully funded! Out of three Kickstarter projects supported by dronologista (Easy Drone, AirDog and now Maps Made Easy), all three got their funds and are moving beyond fundraising phase.

Here is the part of the statement made by Maps Made Easy crew, right after the funding session was over:

Words can’t express the gratitude we are feeling for all the support we have received through this entire process.  From our proof readers and critical minds to the new contacts and old friends, we want to thank you all.  We know this was a pretty technical topic for Kickstarter, but the right people found us and loved the idea.  Lasting business relationships have been formed.

As we roll out parts of the site we will continue to post our progress here.  After the campaign closes we will be in contact with everyone to sort out reward delivery and scheduling of the various activities.

We really can’t thank everybody enough and will talking to you all soon.

Truly humbled,

Tudor and the Maps Made Easy team

Great job guys, and good luck!

Top 5 by dronologista @Robohub

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

On 30th of May, a comment appeared on the About page of this blog. Hallie Siegel, the Managing Editor from Robohub, an excellent online communication platform for, well, robotics mostly, proposed to me to cross-post articles. After a brief Skype interview, I agreed (of course!) to share my blog posts, and to join an impressive group of contributors that included UAV heavyweights such as Chris Anderson and prof. dr. Raffaello D’Andrea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waUY6hlG-3k

Two months fast forward, and there are ten articles by dronologista at Robohub. Some of them are more some less successful, but all of them were interesting enough to grab attention of Robohub visitors. Here are the top 5 that were generating quite a lot of traffic:

  1. Drone Startups: Fotokite – This article is a part of ongoing series of Drone Startups posts. It is about a startup that designed what is basically a powered kite, not a quite a drone, ideally suited to dodge FAA scrutiny. The article was submitted to Slashdot harnessing traffic from it, and was even reposted on DIYDrones. Great success!
  2. Quadrotor allegedly seen spying on French teams closed practice at World Cup – Published during the World Cup craze, it attracted a lot of people. French coach Didier Deschamps was calling for investigation after a quadcopter was spotted spying over his team’s closed training session. It was not revealed whose drone it was, but since we know now that it was Germany that beat the French team in quarterfinals, it seems that Germans used high-tech solution to get to semifinals. No drones spied on Brazil team though, so I am out of theories why they lost 7-1.
  3. Rescue drone that finds survivors using their cellphones’ WiFi signals – Post about a UAV that was designed by team of students from EFPL. It includes the interview with Jonathan Cheseaux, the man behind the project.
  4. The thriving drone community of South Africa – While most of the stories found around the internet is focused on drones in US, this post covered a country that is not often featured online in connection to drones. Yet, a thriving community exists, and is very productive and creative.
  5. HorseFly unmanned aerial parcel delivery system – This post described something that could be Amazon’s wet dream. A combined transport system that uses both a van and a UAV to deliver the parcel, utilizing both vehicles advantages.

Those were 5 of mine most popular articles at Robohub after two months of collaboration, which I hope, will continue to flourish. I wonder if I will be able to completely redefine this list in six months time. Just a personal challenge for dronologista 🙂

What is your favorite blog post by dronologista?

Drone Startups part 14: Maps Made Easy

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Aerial mapping can be quite time-consuming and expensive. Even if you are employing a UAV to do it, it might take hours for all the post-processing, time-stamp shifting and deleting blurred photos. And after all the time invested, it is quite possible that the map created is not up to expectations, and the whole process starts almost from scratch.

That is what Maps Made Easy, a Kickstarter project, is trying to improve. Maps Made Easy is a brainchild of a San Diego based Drones Made Easy, a DJI dealership with a twist, because behind it stands a group of engineers with aerial photography, photogrammetry and commercial drone mapping systems experience.

Aerial mapping process workflow with Maps Made Easy should work something like this:

  1. Plan – Use our online planning tool or ground station software of your choice to select the area to be mapped
  2. Collect – Program the aerial platform. Set the camera to take periodic images. Kick off the automated flight. Wait for the drone to land itself
  3. Upload – Drag and drop the collected images into our web application. Upload completion automatically kicks off the processing
  4. Interact – View the created maps on our site. Pan and zoom around using a familiar interface. Control public accessibility. Embed freely.

Image processing can tie up a personal computer for hours, if not days, unless you have a US$15.000,00 workstation that can spit it up in minutes. By offloading the job to Maps Made Easy image-processing service, you can free your computer, and just wait for the email with your hosted and stitched aerial image, that can easily become fully geo-referenced, with just a few clicks.

If you have any doubt, just check what an experienced aerial mapper told about the service: “177 randomly named photos, without GPS data, without flight logs, were loaded onto alpha version of the server. I thought they don’t have a chance, but they nailed it. Just few hours later, an e-mail was waiting in inbox, with a URL for a finished map

The Maps Made Easy service is the future of low-cost aerial mapping. It is able to provide up-to-date maps out of stitched imagery, that are accurate enough even for GIS professionals.

And if you are having a second thought on funding this Kickstarter, let dronologista give you a short advice: back it!

Videos courtesy of Drones Made Easy.

Brilliant article, first hand experience and an interview with CTO of Drones Made Easy can be found on DIYDrones.

Drone Startups part 11 – Fotokite

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Although I am amazed with a UAV and their versatility, I must admit that having a flying camera zooming by and zooming me in can sometimes be intimidating. It can be intimidating not because of the drone with the camera itself, but because I don’t always know who is behind that camera. If the drone operator would be immediately identifiable, there would be no problem.

That is exactly the issue Fotokite tries to solve. The idea was developed around following premises:

  • The regulatory picture is murky and evolving (let’s just mention that the FAA is likely to miss 2015. deadline for setting a UAV regulation and that the tethered aircraft are exempt from these rules)
  • Accountability is important – people are usually not quite thrilled while being the target of an unseen operator of a flying camera

The solution is a tethered, GoPro fitted, quadcopter with onboard algorithms that let it fly instantly and virtually under any conditions, without relying on piloting skills, GPS working or wifi failing.

Fotokite is designed to be launched and fully operational in one minute. To the user, flying the camera is as simple as holding a kite, and framing the picture is as easy as rotating your hand-held monitor, and the tether provides visual accountability for bystanders and property owners.

Fotokite

Fotokite

The man behind the project,Sergei Lupashin, a TED Fellow with 10+ years of autonomous systems experience, assembled an impressive team which includes robotics heavy-weights such as Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea. The project is supported by the Swiss National Centre of Competence for Research in Robotics – NCCR, already mentioned in one of the previous posts as supporters of Flying Donkey Challenge.

There are several concepts already that are enabling a drone to autonomously follow and film the moving object (AirDog and Hexo+). However, the Fotokite seems particularly well suited for use in media, providing birds-eye view, while allowing those around the device to immediately identify the camera operator. The price is unknown still, but despite that, it seems like a pretty cool tool that will be added to many reporters’ inventory quite soon.

Video and image courtesy of Fotokite.

Proudly South African Drones

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Couple of years ago, while I was living in Cape Town, I met a group of people so much into drones and aerial filming, that they managed to initiate me into the world of UAV. I didn’t even realize that (I was always slow-witted), but it turned out that South African soil is a very fertile ground for starting and growing of a UAV enthusiasm and business. Therefore, I will dedicate this post to the thriving drone community of the Republic of South Africa.

Let’s start with the legislation: there is none. SACAA, the South African Civil Aviation Authority created confusion some two months ago, when it firstly declared a ban on the use of drones for aerial filming, and then issued this statement. It basically says that SACAA doesn’t ban something that is illegal already (i.e. using drones for aerial filming). Only problem is that it is not illegal, since there is no legislation covering the issue. On the other hand, Cape Town Film Commission has been n discussion with the SACAA, the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town and has requested that the SACAA implement their model aircraft policy for use of the drones.

If approved, the policy will require adopting the below guidelines, which are similar to those used in Europe and Australia:

– Flying only under 120m
– No flying within 4.2 nautical miles of an airport
– Flying only in line of sight of the operator (500m)
– No auto pilot flying or night flying
– No flying over public property and roads without permission

Meanwhile, filmmakers are still flocking to Cape Town, taking advantage of breath-taking scenery and skilled local aerial filming production crews. One of them is Skylab Productions. This prolific company founded in 2012. produced aerial shots for National Geographic, and gave its contribution to Cape Town version of (in)famous Pharell Williams “Happy” video.

And if somewhere are guys that are using drones for filming, there would be someone catering for their needs and providing them with equipment. SteadiDrone is a proudly South African UAV manufacturer, founded in 2012. in a beautiful town of Knysna. Their flagship product is the QU4D, RTF quadcopter that uses the APM 2.5 autopilot from 3D Robotics and is able to carry a GoPro camera on board.

There are others, however, that are manufacturing a UAV with significantly less creative purpose. The Skunk Riot Control Drone is made by Desert Wolf, a South African company, and it has already been sold to mining companies, notorious for their problematic treatment of mine workers and frequent riots.

Luckily, there are more jesting endeavors. SA Beer Lift challenge, although tiny compared to the one organized by HobbyKing, still managed to produce some respectable results and some funny fails. I couldn’t find any information if it will happen this year as well, but it would be awesome. Where else could you find such cool drone fail videos?

Despite all the challenges that are present in today’s South African society, community that has been growing around Unmanned Aerial Vehicles seems very dynamic and healthy. Dronologista hopes that it will remain so in the future, and will be happy to bring the news to the world about individuals and companies that are using or producing proudly South African drones.