Tag Archive | DJI

Drone Startups part 17: Spark Aerial – Your Aerial Cinematography Flight School

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!

The proliferation of UAV means that there is a growing number of UAV operators. Sometimes these operators have some experience, but in most of the cases they have none. To make things worse, nowadays, everyone that buys DJI Phantom and attach a GoPro to it, instantly thinks that he is in the aerial filming business. FAIL. The results are bad videos at the best, and serious accidents in the worst case scenario. To get an idea of the type of mishaps that can happen, check out the video below:

Scale of this problem was identified by some smart people from Spark Aerial. And the solution they are offering is simple and obvious now: an Aerial Cinematography Flight School. Spark Aerial Kickstarter project aims to build an Aerial Cinematography video training series and accompanying online resource center for anyone interested in aerial filming. The free video training series (with some premium content) is intended to emphasize flight safety, and would move from such basics as taking off for the first time to advanced piloting maneuvers like the buttonhook sweep, which enables a video camera to remain focused on one place while the drone circles around.

Founders of the Spark Aerial are Radley Angelo, Kurt Selander, and Austin Hill, three engineers from the University of California, San Diego. They said that the goal behind the school is “to teach the world how to have fun, fly safe, and capture amazing content”. They certainly have the know-how and experience to reach that goal, since their work has been already featured on CNN, TechCrunch, Buzzfeed, Good Morning America, the National Geographic Channel, just to name few.

Spark Aerial Team

Spark Aerial Team

Project was successfully funded within three weeks of its launch, no wonder, since among the backers are UAV industry leaders such as 3d Robotics, DJI and Flytrex. Kickstarter campaign runs for twelve more days, so there is still time to get some Spark Aerial goodies for backing this project.

There is one thing in particular that I would like to point at the very end of this article: at the bottom of the Spark Aerial Kickstarter page, there is a section called “Risks and Challenges” in which Spark Aerial guys said that “We are not accredited by the FAA…”. A prudent move by FAA would be to actually give accreditation to Spark Aerial Cinematography School, since it is perhaps the first institutionalized attempt to systematically improve the safety of UAV operations. And that could be one of the cornerstones of the safe commercial application of UAV.

Interesting articles about Spark Aerial Cinematography School Kickstarter Campaign can be found at Yahoo! Finance and Xconomy.

Images and videos courtesy of Spark Aerial.

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Does the Small UAV industry need its own coalition?

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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.

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Original story by Hallie Siegel @Robohub

Last week USA Today reported that Amazon, 3D Robotics, Parrot and DJI had banded together to form a “Small UAV Coalition”, hiring DC-based lobbying firm Akin Gump to represent their interests before US regulators and ease the way for the commercial drone industry in that country. Akin Gump lobbyist Michael Drobac says that, since the USA Today report was first published, Airware and GoPro have joined the fold and others in the small UAV business will soon be following suit. But does the small UAV industry need its own lobbying effort, and how will the inclusion of retail giant Amazon impact its ability to represent the broader group?

In addition to contending with the FAA, the group must also gain traction with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which manages the communication frequencies that drones would use, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which will be ruling on privacy issues. With multiple government bodies to lobby, Drobac believes it makes sense to work together in a concerted effort.

According to Drobac, there was already an appetite for a coalition among those in the small UAV business, whose needs differed somewhat from the larger UAV firms with aerospace and defence contracts. “The coalition members are all extremely consumer-focused,” he said, pointing out that the first priority of the group will be to lobby for clear safety and privacy guidelines, both of which are key concerns for consumers. The coalition has already filed several petitions for exemption with the FAA, and hopes to influence and educate policymakers and consumers about the commercial opportunities of small UAVs.

Small UAV Coalition

Patrick Egan from sUAS News thinks this consumer focus makes the coalition’s lobbying needs distinctly different from the needs of the UAV “old guard” of Department of Defence (DoD) vendors. “Previous lobbying efforts have been working to regulate 10-year-old aviation technology,” he says, pointing out that, by contrast, members of the Small UAV Coalition want to invest in new technology and new applications that haven’t even been discovered yet, and for that they will need extremely broad and inclusive regulatory definitions.

It therefor matters that they have their own representation. “If you’ve successfully lobbied to have the standards built around your product or business needs, you will have an edge,” says Egan, pointing out that while current regulations tend to focus on the fixed wing products common to DoD vendors, the regulations don’t even consider the multirotor devices that are common to the small UAV industry right now.

Image is another factor that may be drawing the coalition together. “A lot of small UAV companies have avoided aligning themselves with DoD vendors because of their military focus,” says Egan. “They just don’t need the controversy.”

Amazon retained council from Akin Gump when it filed its petition for exemption with the FAA this past July to begin tests with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet. In its letter to the FAA, Amazon said that so far it has only been able to test its drones inside its Seattle R&D lab or in other countries, but would “prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle – where our next generation R&D lab and distinguished team of engineers, scientists and aeronautical professionals are located.”

Earlier this week, the Economic Times rumored that Amazon will begin testing drone delivery in India. If true, Amazon is pulling all punches. The threat of losing talent, R&D and investment to other countries is one of the key arguments of commercial drone advocates in the US. Andra Keay of Silicon Valley Robotics says, “Going to India sends a strong message to the FAA, and it makes so much sense. India is well-known for the high calibre of their roboticists, engineers and developers. And yet parts of the country still have very rudimentary infrastructure, which actually makes it easier to do disruptive innovation there. It’s harder to patch existing legacy building and transport technologies than it is to start afresh.”

Drobac says that allowing private testing facilities is key to keeping UAV innovation in the US: “Sure the FAA has some test sites, but it’s much more pragmatic to have testing near to where your headquarters are.”

For companies that are pushing innovation in this space, distance is not the only issue with testing facilities. New technologies such as sense-and-avoid will need to be peer-reviewed to meet (as-yet unspecified) safety regulations, and private companies like Amazon don’t want to go to public testing facilities. Says Egan: “Even though they might need an independent 3rd party to review their safety record, they still want to keep their proprietary data safe. We don’t know how safe that data is at a public site.”

The high cost of using the FAA testing sites (according to Egan, $5-10K per day) presents another obstacle. ”I’m not sure that the FAA took into account how prohibitive these costs could be to a small company that is just getting off the ground,” said Egan. “This is really a hold-over from the days when most UAV operators were Department of Defence vendors.”

According to the US Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan organization that tracks lobbying expenditures in the US, Amazon has significantly increased its lobbying expenditures in recent years (see chart). In the USA Today article, Chris Anderson from 3D Robotics was quoted as saying that Amazon’s interest “lets people realize how big it can be … They have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving.”

Source: Center for Responsive Politics. Note that 2014 expenditures represent only year-to-date until Aug 2014. Amazon has spent 40K on lobbying efforts for PrimeAir at the time of publication.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics. Note that 2014 expenditures represent only year-to-date until Aug 2014. Amazon has spent 40K on lobbying efforts for PrimeAir at the time of publication.

Egan agrees that the influence of a big player is critical to the future success of the coalition, saying that “Amazon has a lot of horsepower and the White House has now renewed its interest in the issue,” however he points out that in the longer term it could be difficult for companies with such different applications and financial resources to keep their interests aligned.

Drobac could not comment on the price of entry for joining the coalition, and would not speculate on how much money would have to be spent to smooth the way for the small UAV industry in the US. “It’s not about how much money will be required to change lawmakers’ minds, ” he said. “The question will come down to whether we can educate people about the tremendous benefits of UAVs to society, and we’re confident that we will because technology always wins.”

So far in 2014, Amazon has spent $40K on lobbying for Prime Air – a number that is likely to increase now that the coalition is official.

Whatever future challenges may exist between coalition members, Drobac insists that their focus will be on their common objective of opening up US airspace to small commercial UAVs: “If we can crack that door open, all boats will rise.”

“I just hope they don’t get frustrated at the pace the FAA operates at,” says Egan, who has been advocating for commercial UAVs for over ten years. “The movement towards the integration of US airspace has been slower than glacial.”

DJI Spreading Wings S900

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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

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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.

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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!

DJI DropSafe System

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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.

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One of the main concerns about UAV, apart from privacy, is their safety. No one really wants to have a flying lawnmower falling from the sky, or buzzing near passenger aircraft. With apparent ubiquity of drones, safety systems are becoming increasingly important. The company that realized that, and is making a constant progress in UAV safety systems is DJI Innovations.

Their consistent effort to improve the safety of their aircraft and to decrease the risk they pose, already brought us No Fly Zone software, that prevents DJI copters from flying around airports and other prohibited areas. This time they are introducing a “Drop speed reduction system”, a complex name for something that is in essence a parachute.

The system weighs around 500gr (~1.2 lbs), can be mounted on top od DJI S800 or S1000, and is deployed in half a second, in case of emergency. It also includes automatic power-off function, and is compatible with WooKong-M and DJI A2 flight controllers.

Though the DropSafe system is designed to minimize damage to the drone and the camera carried in the event of an accident, it is not guaranteed that there will be no damage at all. And there is also possibility that the drone with the parachute gets blown away and stuck on top of a tree. Still, it is better to have just the camera smashed then camera, drone and someone’s head.

As with the above mentioned “No Fly Zone” firmware, it is reasonable to expect that the DropSafe, or similar parachute systems become standard equipment of UAV in the near future.

Drone Startups part 14: Maps Made Easy

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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.

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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.

Amazon asks FAA for permission to test delivery drones

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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!

In April this year, Amazon.com issued a shareholder letter that stated: “The Prime Air team is already flight testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles…″. Three months fast forward, first half of July, the company is on its 9th generation of drones, that can fly up to 50 mph (~80 km/h) and carry up to 5 pounds (~2kg) of payload, which is enough for 86% of the sold products.

Rapid development of the Amazon drones was facilitated by intense indoor testing, including test flights in their research lab in Seattle. Among features tested are agility, flight duration and redundancy. Most importantly, the company claims to have developed sense-and-avoid hardware and software that will allow its drones to automatically avoid collisions.

In order to progress further with development, outdoor testing, in more realistic conditions is necessary. That is why Amazon.com asked to be exempted from the lengthy and complex approval process, citing innovation as a driving factor, since the Congress gave the FAA power to grant innovators “expedited operational authorization”.

If the exemption is granted, that would allow the company to test Prime Air drones in its own backyard, “with additional safeguards that go far beyond those that of FAA”. One of the safeguards is the Geo-fencing, a technology that defines geographical boundaries within which drone flight can be confined and beyond which the drone gets automatically deactivated. That technology is already available and used on many commercial drones, DJI Phantom being one of the first, which was already posted at dronologista earlier this year. Exemption would also allow Amazon.com to test drones outside of six testing sites where FAA allows unmanned aerial vehicles to be used, in order to assess their safety, communication, air traffic control etc.

If exemption is not granted, however, it is quite obvious what will happen: the company will simply move its drone operations abroad. Canada is already very hospitable to commercial drone operators.

Full text of the Amazon Petition for Exemption can be found here.

Very detailed articles about the topic can be found at Forbes and Cnet.

Videos courtesy of Amazon and DJI Innovations