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The Drone Download: Google Drones Are a Go; Computer Vision and Mind Control; Shortcuts to an FAA License; Star Wars Drone Fleet Doubles

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3DR Raises $50M in Series C Funding, Extending Smartphone Revolution to Drones

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve secured a third round of venture financing, a $50 million dollar Series C injection spearheaded by Qualcomm, global leader in 3G and next-generation mobile technologies.

We raised such a big round for two reasons. First, to leverage the extraordinary pace of innovation in the smartphone industry by partnering with the leader there, Qualcomm, with the goal of extending the mobile revolution to the skies. We also want to build on our great platform adoption and enable an entire global ecosystem of commercial drone specialists and operators, all creating products and services based on 3DR’s technology.

Qualcomm’s next-generation Snapdragon processors, including sensors, wireless and computer vision, are ideal for developing advanced applications and driving increased performance for 3DR drones.

“By working with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., we can bring advanced computing to the skies at an increasing pace,” said Chris Anderson, CEO of 3DR. “Such multi-gigahertz Linux-based onboard computing platforms, combined with state-of-the-art cameras and other sensors and wireless technologies, will allow us to create next-gen drones that are smarter, easier and safer than ever before.”

Obviously interest in drones is high, especially for mobile, and with good reason.

First, the recent FAA announcement is huge step forward in the acceleration of the commercial drone industry. Not only has it laid out clear rules of the road (clarity is always liberating), but by eliminating the requirement for manned pilot licences and aircraft certification it has dramatically lowered the barrier of entry for new operators.

This means the drone future is going to look more like the consumer electronics industry than the aerospace industry. To use an analogy, two decades ago the FCC liberated the airwaves by allowing free access to the “open spectrum” that created the WiFi and Bluetooth industries. That allowed the wireless industry to look and behave more like the lightly-regulated internet and less like the heavily-regulated phone companies. We’re all beneficiaries of the huge amount of innovation and economic value that that ruling created.

Now the FAA has similarly created a minimally-regulated domain of the airspace that will also stimulate a huge amount of drone innovation by allowing the industry to advance at the pace of smartphones, not airplanes. This means drones that are smaller, cheaper, lighter, safer and in the hands of more users, finding more uses than ever before.

And that’s what 3DR intends to lead, powered by Qualcomm, encouraged by the FAA and driven by a generation of consumer and commercial users who are using these powerful new tools to discover positive and productive applications that we can only dream of today.

The post 3DR Raises $50M in Series C Funding, Extending Smartphone Revolution to Drones appeared first on 3drobotics.com.

You, Your GoPro and a Drone: The Beginner’s Guide to Great Aerial Photography

Intimidated by drones? You’re not alone. Although there still aren’t a lot of resources that guide first-time pilots from a photographer’s point-of-view, it’s surprisingly easy to get started. With the limited space I have for a blog, I’d like to offer a few critical tips for aerial photography that I wish I hadn’t had to learn on my own. IRIS+_Close2

The IRIS+

The gear: Drone, GoPro, FPV

First: Get a drone that can carry a GoPro, hands-down the best small camera on the market. GoPro drones offer us incredible new ways of contextualizing our subjects. Aerial GoPro photography and video lends your images an enormous sense of scale, and with a 3DR drone all this enormity can now come to you through a platform that weighs less than your laptop. 3DR quadcopters for GoPro are easy to use, affordable and low-risk, and they deliver the incredible freedom of flight. Get in the game with an IRIS+ at $750, or go professional with the X8+ at $1350.

You can attach your GoPro directly to the IRIS+ or X8+, but for capturing video you’ll probably want to add a gimbal, a device that hangs from your drone and stabilizes your GoPro. We recommend the Tarot 2-D gimbal for the IRIS+, and a 3-axis gimbal for the X8+.

And optionally, but highly recommended for photography: an FPV monitor. FPV (first-person view) lets you see what your camera sees in real time.

Setting up the GoPro for aerial photography

Why do we recommend a GoPro platform? They’re the perfect camera for drones: cheap, light, reputable and they shoot incredibly high-quality footage reliably. Here are some tips about setting your GoPro up for aerial photography.

We recommend shooting in 4K whenever possible; that’ll give you the highest quality footage and the most flexibility in post-production. GoPros also have time-lapse settings for automated photo capture, so they’re perfect for shooting high-resolution still photos, too. Set this time lapse for every few seconds and you’ll automatically capture a series of stills for the duration of your flight. GoPro HERO3s and up all offer simultaneous photo and video capture, so you can shoot high-res stills while you’re shooting video.

Wide

Wide

Medium

Medium

Narrow

Narrow

As for tinkering with some other GoPro settings, you’ll definitely want to set the field of view as narrow as possible. This is because with aerial photos the subject is often relatively far away from the camera, and you may lose your subject entirely in a wide shot. And the “Protune” control enables access to more camera settings and also increases the bitrate at which the GoPro records. This means that you get higher quality footage, so we recommend always having Protune set to ON.

As for color settings, you have two choices: “GoPro,” which is highly saturated and makes the footage pop; or “flat,” which is best if you want to color correct your footage or match it with footage from other cameras in an edit. Start with “GoPro” for immediate eye-catching results; choose “flat” for more flexibility. Or you can also fly your GoPro with a PolarPro filter. These not only help with image and color, but they help reduce jello and can also mitigate those fluttering lines if the props get into the frame.

GoPro color

GoPro color

Flat color

Flat color

Speaking of: To prevent the props from getting into the frame, simply tilt your camera angle down a few degrees. The GoPro shoots so wide that if you’re aiming the camera straight ahead, it will likely capture the props, too.

Flying for great aerial photos

Start slow. Before ever going up in the air, please read up on everything that comes with your drone, and check out our extensive YouTube tutorial playlist for detailed and clear instructions and tips for flying the IRIS+.

The first few times you take off, you might want to simply play around a little with altitude, and then practice landing. When you’re comfortable with the controls and ready to fly around, make sure you keep the drone facing out (flying “nose out”) so you and the drone are looking in the same direction. Orientation is one of the biggest challenges for new pilots: When you turn the drone around to face you (flying “nose in”) the controls invert, and if you’re not experienced things get confusing quickly.

Get the shot: tips

Here are a few small pieces of advice for first-time fliers.

Plan ahead: Think of where you want your shots to start and finish, like storyboards. Remember, battery life up there is limited and you might not have a lot of time to spend just looking around.

Andorra, in the Pyrenees.

Andorra, in the Pyrenees.

Fly with cinematic intent, combining copter positioning with camera operation. The two interact. For instance, don’t just rise over your subject; rise up while tilting the camera down. As you do this, the perspective shifts smoothly. This type of interaction between the camera and the platform is what gives aerial photos their life and makes the perspective unique.

In fact, motion and perspective are the two biggest strengths of drone photography, so it’s good to remember how speed and perspective interact. Think of a record on a turntable: the outer edge has to move at a faster speed to maintain its relationship with the inner edge. This means that the higher up you are, the faster you have to fly if you want people to perceive motion.

However, speed can also be a shot killer. You want your camera movement to remain steady and slow, or else you risk jolting the shot, a pin prick that bursts the bubble of a magic moment. This means that even if your subject gets out of frame, don’t panic; always try to correct the frame with smooth and slow camera movement.

So advanced it’s easy Steeple in Andorra. IF this were a video, parallax would make those hills appear to glide across the background.

Steeple in Andorra. IF this were a video, parallax would make those hills appear to glide across the background.

3DR’s advanced technology makes getting pro aerial shots incredibly easy. You don’t even need to know how to fly a drone in order to fly our drones: Simply draw a flight path on your Android tablet and your IRIS+ will fly itself, freeing you to work camera tilt. And our 3PV™ Follow Me mode lets you go completely hands-free: 3DR drones can follow wherever you go, keeping the camera centered on you to capture your every move. As you develop your skills, you can even try to make Follow Me dynamic by retaking control of the sticks midflight—the camera then stays on the moving subject as you fly manually.

For my best shots I flew my IRIS+ with a Region of Interest set. ROI lets me choose a static subject, like a water tower, and fly around it freely while the drone keeps the subject in frame. This mode is also great for eye-popping parallax: Think of that water tower with a city skyline sweeping across the background. To get this effect, set the ROI and fly close in to your subject, making sure there’s a good separation between subject and background; this distance and scale will translate visually into a cool gliding movement and make your background appear dynamic.

Drone technology and camera technology are on converging courses. And 3DR has made it all incredibly easy—not just to get flying today, but to get the shot.

The post You, Your GoPro and a Drone: The Beginner’s Guide to Great Aerial Photography appeared first on 3drobotics.com.

Drone Download #7: A Rival for Amazon; New Drone Privacy Law; Safer Fracking; Let’s Play ‘Mark Zuckerberg or a Cardigan’

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Last week the drone industry and the media both scrambled to digest and analyze the surprise release of the FAA’s proposed drone laws—and as often happens, a ton of very cool, very important and very weird stories got lost in the rush: A new drone delivery system could rival Amazon Prime Air… Wind-powered drones have the potential to “fly indefinitely”… Company claims computer vision for drones has arrived in the mainstream… But does the fact that computers think Mark Zuckerberg “looks like a cardigan” confirm or contradict that claim?… And finally: a Japanese robot hat that can feed you tomatoes as you run…

Here are the links that matter:

An interview with the VP of Amazon Prime Air, discussing the future of delivery drones in America. (Popular Science)

Amazon schmamazon: A Cincinnati company is currently developing a drone called Horsefly that deploys from the roof of an electric delivery truck and is strong enough to carry parcels as heavy as 10 pounds—double what Amazon is shooting for. (Popular Science)

The BBC did a great job profiling our CTO Jordi Muñoz this week, dedicating both an article and a video to his incredible self-made story.

Humble brag #2: Here’s a breakdown of the five best funded US drone companies—featuring 3DR. (Silicon Valley Biz Journal)

And if you want to take your IRIS+ abroad, here’s an informative guide to safe international travel with your drone. (Slate)

Eighth Wonder: Check out the world’s first-ever perfect 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statue—the statue is so remote that a model could only be made by drones. (Gizmodo)

Make every district a red-light district: This guy can hack traffic signal systems from above with a drone—and it’s actually fairly alarming. (Wired)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer—oh wait, nm: We got drones to train falcons now. (Popular Science)

A clear-eyed and informative piece from a surprising place: What you should know about using drones for your business, from your pals at American Express.

The FAA is currently asking for public comments about the recently proposed small drone regulations. Here are 31 questions the FAA wants you to answer. Speak up for creating a separate category for micro drones (under 4.4 lbs)! (Center for Study of the Drone)

NIMBY: California considers a bill that would prohibit the unauthorized use of drones directly over private property—great start, won’t work, here’s why. (Forbes)

Drone runs entirely on wind power: “During trials, XAir got its drone prototype to fly for more than two hours with no observable battery drain, but Seshu Kiran GS, the company’s founding engineer, told VentureBeat that in theory, it could fly almost indefinitely in the right kind of wind.” (Venture Beat)

And in other breaking wind news: Methane sniffing drones to be deployed in fracking operations. “When released into the atmosphere, methane traps up to 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide, which may accelerate climate change. Flaring by oil and gas companies at drill sites is also a waste of this valuable byproduct, which burns more cleanly than coal.” (ASME.org)

According to this startup, computer vision for drones is here and ready for the big time. (Droneblog)

But according to this comprehensive study, it sure ain’t. In fact, one of the top commercial artificial-intelligence systems thought Mark Zuckerberg was a cardigan—not even a hoodie. (Bloomberg)

Domo arigato, Mr. Tomato: This Japanese robot hat feeds you tomatoes as you run. (Slate)

The post Drone Download #7: A Rival for Amazon; New Drone Privacy Law; Safer Fracking; Let’s Play ‘Mark Zuckerberg or a Cardigan’ appeared first on 3drobotics.com.

Drone Download #6: FAA Drone Laws; Kick a Google Dog Robot; World’s First Drone Circus

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All-out media blitz on the drone industry this week following the long-awaited release of the FAA’s proposed regulations for integrating drones into the national airspace—which, it should be noted, was only made public this early because of an accidentally leaked document that the agency didn’t take down fast enough. We’re obviously still a long way from stone tablet time (the actual laws will take well over a year to go into effect), so most of this week’s Download considers different opinions and analysis from some expert organizations. Had your fill of the FAA? You’re not alone—other goodies at the bottom.

Reactions to the rules

The FAA’s proposed rules are more lax than first feared. Seems they’re poised to open the sky to commercial drones—but not so fast: The actual implementation is likely to take over a year. (TechCrunch)

Here are five things you need to know about the proposed regs. Of particular note: Nothing changes for the everyday consumer, but as many as 7,000 drone-related companies might take off in the next three years. (The Verge) 

Gizmodo, however, says the regs might actually be a job-killer.

A view that Amazon shares, and this week voiced vociferously. (CNBC)

To wit, Gizmodo posits in an earlier article featuring our CEO Chris Anderson that the DIY drone movement could “launch a billion-dollar industry.”

The Washington Post also thinks the rules are too little too late. “The most disruptive—and potentially the most valuable—applications of drone technology will not be legal any time soon.” They have a point: What about MicroUAS?

And in a conspicuously well-timed release, the White House publicized this memorandum on safeguarding privacy and safety in the domestic drone era. (whitehouse.gov)

But how concerned are we really? A recent and quite interesting Reuters poll shows that a remarkable 42 percent of Americans support a private drone ban. However: “68 percent felt that the police should be permitted to use drones to solve crimes, while 62 percent favored their usage as a deterrent. Use by news agencies proved more controversial, with 41 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed—but curiously, 49 percent felt it was fine for parents to monitor their children with the assistance of flying robots.” (Slate)

But here’s another and reliably more fresh take on privacy from the New York Times: What all of this paranoia really says about us. The thesis: “Our privacy is far more vulnerable in the face of surreptitious phone photography or recording than it is to a noisy conspicuous device hovering in plain sight. The problem is not technology. It is, as it always was, us.”

And just to round it all out: This pilot says the FAA regs are actually too lenient.

And now for some coolness

Drones will dance, fly and race in the world’s first drone circus—to be held this year in (where else) Amsterdam. The trailer looks nuts, by the way.

Drones will scan the Amazon forest, looking for evidence of occupation by ancient civilizations: “The UK-led project is trying to determine how big these communities were, and to what degree they altered the landscape. The data is likely to inform policies on sustainable forest use today.” (BBC)

And an LSU researcher is developing a way to use drones to help prevent malaria. Our friend Dries Reymaekers is involved in a similar effort. (The Advocate)

“But they’ll just keep making bigger drones, with bigger nets…” This drone will purportedly trap smaller drones in a net—a quaint collision of new and ancient technology. (Popular Mechanics)

The FAA has cleared a company to use drones to inspect flare stacks: “Typically, chemical plants and refineries are no fly zones, so making these visual inspections is only possible from a distance,” said Lawrence Crynes, general manager of Total Safety Flare Services. “But distance and other factors can compromise the effectiveness of an inspection and they are sometimes impossible to do because of weather, trees, wires, fencing and other restrictions.” (UAS Magazine)

Kick this dog. Google-owned Boston Dynamics developed a spill-proof robot dog named Spot and dared people to knock it over. (Gizmag)

Here’s a very cool series of nadir aerials that offer a new way of looking at daily social life in China. (World Press)

For us geeks: A rad-looking new VTOL drone design. (Hackaday)

A high note: This one-person ambulance drone, modeled on a traditional quadcopter design, could reduce an estimated 1,000 “savable” lives lost due to slow accident response times. “This would enable a single pilot to control a whole fleet remotely, and to take over the manual controls for difficult takeoffs and landings. The drone would be able to land almost anywhere at the scene, thanks to a footprint the size of a compact car.” (Designboom.com)

And the truly big news this week: Battlebots returns. Presumably with drones. (Deadline)

The post Drone Download #6: FAA Drone Laws; Kick a Google Dog Robot; World’s First Drone Circus appeared first on 3drobotics.com.

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