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Drone Girl

This city has the most registered drones of them all

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

California is home to Silicon Valley, Silicon Beach, and now — it appears — Silicon Sky. The state comes in No. 1 for having the most registered drones, both in the commercial and hobby space.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday released two databases of all registered commercial and hobby drones in the U.S., five months after announcing a rule that all owners of drones greater than 0.55 pounds need to register their aerial vehicles online with the government.

In the commercial drone space, Menlo Park, Calif. takes the cake for having the most registered drone users. Menlo Park, which has 176 registered drone users, is one of the cities that makes up Silicon Valley and is home to Facebook Inc. FB, +0.26% (which is working on drones of its own). It’s also home to startups such as drone delivery company Matternet and Skydio, which was founded by a team of researchers from MIT and Google’s drone team, and creates drones that are smart enough to react to and avoid obstacles like trees.

Other areas topping the list include Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, as well as Los Angeles and its neighboring city Burbank, where crews are increasingly using drones to shoot Hollywood films.

Read the rest of this story and see the complete rankings here.

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Drone Girl to lead second InterDrone “Women in Drones” Panel

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll once again be heading up one of my favorite events of the year — InterDrone’s second Women in Drones panel discussion and luncheon.

The International Drone Conference & Exposition will be held September 7-9 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.

I’ll join moderator Gretchen West, a Senior Advisor at Hogan Lovells US LLP and former executive at Drone Deploy and AUVSI alongside panelists Lisa Ellman and Jennifer Richter.

“BZ Media and InterDrone are proud to have created this unique networking event allowing women to have an open discussion about both the challenges and opportunities in this growing but predominantly male industry. We are flattered that smaller niche UAV shows have copied the event and allowed this powerful gathering to occur at more than just our show,” said Katie Flash, Director of Conference Programs at BZ Media LLC.

InterDrone had 2,800 attendees in its first year and expects to host more than 4,000 this year along with 120 sessions and 135 exhibitors.

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A photo from last year’s Women in Drones luncheon

“In the year since the first Women in Drones Luncheon, the commercial drone industry has gained tremendous momentum — it’s one of the fastest growing sectors in technology. Women have been an early and integral part of paving the way for the commercial drone industry to succeed,” said Lisa Ellman, co-chair, UAS Group, Hogan Lovells and Co-founder, Women of Commercial Drones Group. “I’m so excited to be back with some of the most talented women in the space for this next Women in Drones Luncheon, and I am looking forward to meeting others who are getting into the industry and exploring drones’ transformative economic potential.”

 

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Roswell Flight Test crew and The Drone Girl recap AUVSI

Didn’t make AUVSI? I had the joy of speaking with Roswell Flight Test Crew’s Patrick Sherman.

I met the crew for the first time last year at the first ever International Drone Day, and it’s great to reunite at another drone event. Check out our discoveries on everything from the show floor to FAA announcements in the video here.

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What drone case should I buy?

Does your drone storing situation resemble something like this?

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How *not* to store your drone. And protect those Lipo batteries!

You’re not alone; that was me until I stepped up my drone case game in a quest to find the perfect way of storing my drone.

There are a number of drone case manufacturers out there! I chose 3, weighed out the pros and cons, and am now leaving  it up to you to decide which is best!

Behold, the ultimate Drone Girl guide to drone cases.

*Each of these case reviews were based on it carrying a DJI Phantom.

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LowePro’s DroneGuard CS400 ($149.95)

I love LowePro’s drone case because it’s the smallest of the cases in this series. Being a small person myself (I’m 4’10”), I appreciate not being dwarfed by a bulky drone case.

Pros:

  • Backpack straps make it easy to transport
  • Small
  • Velcro dividers mean inside of case can be reconfigured

Cons:

  • Pricier

Perfect for: The Always-On-The-Go Dronie

_MG_0393DroneHangar Lite ($109)

Custom Case Group’s ‘Lite’ product line is a series of soft-sided, lightweight carrying case fitted with a water jet cut foam cushioning system.

Pros:

  • Foam cushioning system is very sturdy
  • Configuration of drone doesn’t require you to remove propellers
  • Custom fitted for DJI and Yuneec products, plus room for smaller accessories
  • Great price

Cons:

  • Can’t change configuration for different drones or to fit other electronics such as a camera because drone fits into a pre-cut foam setting.
  • Large
  • No backpack straps

Perfect for: The Frugal Dronie

 

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Ready to fly! (Except for those pesky props)

Think Thank Photo’s Phantom Airport Helipak ($199.75)

Think Tank Photo’s Phantom Airport Helipak is a large backpack with velcro foam dividers that are removable and customizable. It’s definitely big — I felt like it was too big on me (though I am quite small). But that could also be a great thing for someone with loads of gear, including multiple batteries, perhaps a laptop, an SLR, and other lenses.

Pros:

  • Backpack straps make it easy to transport
  • Comfortable to carry heavy weight because backpack straps are padded and configured to provide lumbar support
  • Velcro dividers mean inside of case can be reconfigured

Cons:

  • Bulky
  • Pricier
  • Need to remove propellers before zipping the case

Perfect for: The Dronie who has a lot of gear

Happy flying!

 

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Yuneec’s Typhoon H review: this drone has reached full beast mode

6 rotors. Collision prevention. Foldable arms. Retractable landing gear. 360-degree range of motion camera. The Yuneec Typhoon H has gone full beast mode.

It looks like a Tornado, but it’s priced like a Typhoon Q500. Meet, the Yuneec Typhoon H.

The $1,299 Yuneec Typhoon H is unlike any other drone in its price range. It has the qualities you would expect for a professional level drone, but at a consumer price tag.

_MG_0904First things first: wipe the words quadcopter from your vocabulary if you’re referring to this. It’s a hexacopter (6 rotors), meaning it is able to continue flying with 5 rotors in case one fails. It also has quick-release propellers, which are easier to mount and dismount than the Q500 before it. The foldable arms also make it much easier to travel with.

But the gem of this copter is its collision prevention.The Typhoon H comes with two sonar sensors on the front, just above the camera, meaning it can sense and avoid objects in front of it.

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Here is how the drone comes out of the box, with foam-fitting packaging.

Like its predecessor, the Q500, the drone has a 3-axis anti-vibration CGO3+ gimbal camera that produces 4K, ultra-stable high definition video and 12 megapixel images. What’s cool about this drone is it can be rotated through 360-degree range of motion. Which leads to the next new feature about the drone — retractable landing gear. The touch of one button on the controller and the landing gear can retract, ensuring that the legs never get in the frame of your shot.

 

The 360-degree range of motion camera is really important to me because — I’ll admit it — I’m TERRIBLE at flying nose-in. But sometimes, you need to photograph something behind you! This feature is perfect because it allows you to fly with ease while getting the shots you need — from any direction.

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Here’s how it looks with the landing gear down.

The Typhoon H has a ton of flight modes. I’ve only flown the Typhoon H one day so far, so I’ll be honest — I didn’t even get to demo the other flight modes. Here they are in a nutshell (and I can’t wait for my next Flyday to continue trying them out myself!):

 

  • Journey Mode: Rises up to 150 feet high and then takes an aerial selfie.
  • Orbit Me Mode: Flies a circular path around you, keeping the camera trained on you the whole time.
  • Point of Interest Mode: Orbits a selected subject autonomously.
  • Curve Cable Cam: Flies between pre-set coordinates enabling the user to independently control the camera position.
  • Team Mode: Allows the pilot operate the drone separately by binding it to the Wizard, allowing the filmmaker to control the camera at the same time by binding it to the ST16 Ground Station.
  • Auto Take Off: Takes off with the tap of a button ground station.
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How the Typhoon H looks with arms folded downwards.
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And bring the arms up to flight position. It’s easy!

All those features means the Typhoon H has a beast of a ground station too. One of the features I have always loved about Yuneec’s products vs. competitors is that it doesn’t require the drone to be linked to a smartphone. I can see the drone’s camera view directly from the 7-inch screen on the controller, and not mess around with my iPhone battery dying (which happens often). Everything you need to operate the drone comes in the box. The controller looks pretty complex, but it also means the user has options to use the modes described above as well as program fully autonomous flight and adjust camera settings.

_MG_0914The controller also has buttons like “H” which stands for home — as in flipping the switch will bring the drone right back to where it took off, and turtle/rabbit buttons to control the speed of the drone. Both are really handy when flying with beginners. I was flying in Golden Gate Park and got into a conversation with a passerby. He wanted to fly it, so I discretely flipped the switch to the turtle mode for safety.

The Typhoon H also comes with a free Wizard, a remote-like device that allows you to pilot with one hand. Yuneec says the Wizard, which retails on its own for $199,  will only come with the Typhoon H for a limited time. Check out my Wizard review here (it’s a nifty little gadget).

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The Wizard comes with the Typhoon H free for a limited time.

I loved the Typhoon Q500 4K when I reviewed it in August. At the time, it cost $1,299 (the same price that the Typhoon H costs now). The Q500 4K is now down to $899.99.

If your budget, is under $1,000, I still love the Q500 4K and would highly recommend it for someone looking for professional footage.

But if you can afford the upgrade, it’s worth it for the retractable landing gear, extra autonomy and safety features in this drone. While in a perfect world the drone would have sensors on ALL sides, the two sonar sensors on the front of the drone are a huge leap in the direction of drones being able to make decisions for safe, autonomous flight. And they work! I tried flying the Typhoon H directly at my flying buddy (of course, DON’T try this at home) and the ground station won’t let the drone go any further, no matter how much throttle you give it. Filmmakers may also prefer upgrading to this over the Q500 for the retractable landing gear, which previously was only available with Yuneec’s $3,499 Tornado drone. That allows the camera to get a 360-degree shot and ensure the legs never appear in your footage!

Of course, someone with more money to invest and who is looking for ultra-high quality footage would likely still want to opt for the Tornado. The Tornado’s CGO4 gimbal camera incorporates a Panasonic GH4 micro four thirds camera sensor with a 3x optical zoom lens, housed on the 3-axis gimbal system. But, a hybrid Tornado and Typhoon H could end up being the ultimate super-safe, super-smart, high-quality camera in the air. I can’t wait to see if/when that comes out.

_MG_0960The battery flight time of the Typhoon H is 25 minutes. A second battery costs $109. I wish I timed it, but flying at full speed and a higher altitude meant slightly less time than 25 minutes. Also, the battery takes a long time to charge. I’m a pretty fast writer, but I wrote this review faster than how long it took to charge the next battery. (I would estimate about two hours to charge). I wish I had two batteries for this review!

The failsafe is useful. I actually tested this (yep!), and the controller can sense there is a rotor down and will prompt you to land — giving you a stern (ie. bold, red font) alert that not all 6 propellers are there. This is really a necessity for people looking to fly over crowds. I felt significantly more confident flying over trees or people in Golden Gate Park with this drone because I knew even if one prop went down, my drone wouldn’t come crashing through the air and get caught in a tree.

My complaint about this drone as a consumer ready copter is it is really large. I’m a tiny person, so I think smaller is better! I’ll write a DJI Phantom ($1,399) vs. Yuneec Typhoon face-off later, but I’ll give you a preview and say that the Phantom is much smaller. While size shouldn’t matter to professionals on a film shoot, a regular consumer might not want to pack this on a trip abroad or even tote along to a picnic.

_MG_0959The dimensions of the box it ships in are 21.2 x 17 x 12.5 inches. For comparison,  American Airlines’ carry-on luggage dimension limit is 22 x 14 x 9 and  Alaska Airlines’ is 24 x 17 x 10. (Of course, check with your airline and airport before traveling with a drone and its accompanying LiPo batteries). I use the same box the Phantom 4 came in as my carrying case. It’s perfect! However, while the Typhoon case is great for storage, it has a flimsy lid and no handle. Thus, it’s not ideal if you need to walk a long distance with it (walking from my apartment in downtown San Francisco, then down to the MUNI (our subway) and out to Golden Gate Park with this foam case wasn’t really the most comfortable experience.) I’m guessing Typhoon H users will end up buying a separate drone case.

_MG_0907This Yuneec Typhoon H is incredibly low-priced for an incredibly powerful piece of equipment. You’ll definitely want to spring for a case (Yuneec’s Typhoon H backpack retails for $149) and an extra battery ($109), which means realistically you’ll end up spending $1,557. Still, that’s a steal for a product that offers not only stable, high-quality video but also the security of failsafes and collision avoidance technology.

From the Wizard to all the flight modes to the 360-degree camera view, there is so much I want to try with this drone. Yuneec has been known to release perfect products, and they’ve done it again. It’s easy, it’s safe, it’s fun. Yuneec has also been known to price its products lower than its main competitor, DJI. (The similar Phantom 4 is $100 more than the Typhoon). You won’t find anything on the market that does this much for this low of a price. The competition better watch out — and look up. A drone of this quality and at this low of a price means the Typhoon H will be dominating the airspace.

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Happy flying!

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